How the billionaire seat will enhance the experience of two-dimensional video conferencing
Now that working remotely has become the new normal, it should make us think about our interface to the world and the possibilities of redefining it when the lockdown ends. If I have to be very honest, my smartphone usage is getting out of hand, and I'm not even talking about the hours I spend on my dual computer screen. Where I used to have face-to-face customer contact, now everything happens in front of a screen. It's not less efficient, on the contrary, but monotonous and two-dimensional.
What would the experience be like if our familiar interface wasn't that two-dimensional screen, but a little richer and more immersive? I also wonder how this situation will evolve when we get the virus under control, and the measures will be phased out. Are we going to go back 100% to what it was like, or are companies going to make changes to their interaction models? Both in terms of internal and external communication. One thing is clear to me, the pandemic, for those who know how to take advantage of it, offers a massive opportunity for digital transformation and redesigning many things. Especially when your work involves interaction with people, both customers, and colleagues.
Since we were in lockdown and the business world was paused for a moment, I have attended many webinars on tools for virtual collaboration, virtual learning, and remote work environments. These tools are mushrooming and they all have a good track record of corporate clients. One of those webinars that stayed with me was the one from Immerse UK with Richard Ward, Global Lead Enterprise VR at McKinsey. He talked about the power of VR. "If there was a time to consider the importance of virtual reality, this is it."
Instead of driving from Brussels to Ghent and then back to Antwerp for the next meeting, today, I move from Skype to Zoom and from Hangouts to Teams and then attend a webinar in Crowd Cast or Click Meeting. All on a flat computer screen, where you are just staring in front of you. Without possible interaction, except typing a message in the chat window. Virtual reality ensures that you become part of that conversation and simply because you can look left and right and see whether others in the meeting look at you or at each other when they are criticised, for example.
The Billionaire seat
So if you move meetings or events to a VR environment, you get a completely different idea. In virtual reality, you do not sit at the very back of the room at an event, but you go for the best place, "The Billionaire Experience." Imagine you're Jeff Bezos and you would like to attend a panel discussion with experts. Then you are not going for a "cheap" spot at the venue, but you invite those people to your home or office and you participate in the conversation. That is the power of VR, according to "Ward". That's the 'billionaire seat' virtual reality is offering you.
In this way, expertise will become much more accessible in the future. Events that focus on knowledge sharing, panels, and keynotes or product presentations should urgently explore virtual applications. Your production cost will significantly reduce, the travel cost and travel time for speakers are eliminated, which offers opportunities to get truly international leaders on a virtual stage. Time savings and limiting our ecological footprint are also two fundamental arguments to me.
Richard Ward also talked about the first deal with a McKinsey supplier that they closed and negotiated from A to Z in a VR environment. The two parties had never seen each other in person but only based on avatars. With this, he again mentioned the efficiency of this medium. Group conversations are much more comfortable in VR than with an online tool like Zoom, a gesture, and the viewing direction of people around the table becomes visible. It all feels much more human than talking to each other, looking at a flat-screen.
Port of Antwerp takes a pioneering role in Belgium.
A little closer to home is the Port of Antwerp, who is in an advanced experiment to roll out virtual meetings and events. Wim Wouters, Co-Founder of Poppins & Wayne, is working as a Digital Product Designer on a tool for the Port of Antwerp. They organise their first internal VR event within a few weeks. People will be able to attend in VR headsets, but also via an online environment to give people without a headset the opportunity to be part of the event as well. Speakers will give their presentation in virtual reality and will, therefore, appear as an "avatar." Watch a demo of their meeting room here, in which you will undoubtedly recognise the structure of the Antwerp Port House.
Even though I make incredible use of screens, I find that it gets in the way for some purposes, but certainly not all. I see a future in which the consumption of many forms of content, be it entertainment, training, digital interactions, or presentations, will mostly (not always) shift to a headset (VR / AR). It is becoming clear to me that the pandemic can accelerate the adoption of a technology whose time has come.
That more and more people are convinced of this, which proves the scarcity of VR glasses in the market. Facebook launched the Oculus Quest VR glasses last year, but they are currently barely or not available. Many companies want to invest in collaboration in VR or use the medium to present new products to their customers. Still, projects have been put on hold because of the unavailability of headsets. Unfortunately, this is a problem that we and our customers are currently facing.
In any case, if you are not yet familiar with the medium of virtual reality or you have not yet thought about how it will affect your company? Then think about it now, because the corona crisis will be a catalyst driving the revolution of virtual reality. The 2008 banking crisis was a milestone for FinTech, perhaps COVID-19 could become one for VR and AR.
Feel free to reach out on firstname.lastname@example.org or dm me for more information on VR collaboration tools.