Are AR and VR Collaboration Platforms the Future Video Conferencing?

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3Q 2020 | IN-5928

There is no doubt that the extended period of remote working, limited traveling, and need for efficient real-time collaboration/communication due to the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted the growth/adoption rate of video conferencing tools, such as Skype for Business and Zoom, and established them as essential working tools not only for businesses but also for schools and universities. At the same time, other real-time collaboration solutions followed in terms of growth, such Augmented Reality (AR) Remote Assistance platforms for frontline remote workers/healthcare professionals and virtual collaboration platforms such as Spatial, MeetinVR, Glue, or Spaces (which was recently acquired by Apple). These virtual platforms promise to optimize distance meeting experiences by simulating in-person meetings with real life avatars. More specifically, with the assistance of AR and Virtual Reality (VR) headsets (or a browser), users are able join virtual rooms and interact with 3D models and avatars like they do in physical word or bring holograms into their space. Virtual collaboration platforms are not a brand-new concept and have the capability to compete traditional video conferencing tools in scenarios of remote teams that need to work with 3D models or for teams that are looking for more realistic communication. However, the market opportunity is currently limited and affected by various factors, from AR/VR hardware capabilities to connectivity and trends in user behavior. The primary questions are what is the future/potential of virtual collaboration platforms when employees return to their offices after COVID-19, and what are the platform features that can drive demand and adoption?

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The Rise of Collaboration Platforms

NEWS


There is no doubt that the extended period of remote working, limited traveling, and need for efficient real-time collaboration/communication due to the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted the growth/adoption rate of video conferencing tools, such as Skype for Business and Zoom, and established them as essential working tools not only for businesses but also for schools and universities. At the same time, other real-time collaboration solutions followed in terms of growth, such Augmented Reality (AR) Remote Assistance platforms for frontline remote workers/healthcare professionals and virtual collaboration platforms such as Spatial, MeetinVR, Glue, or Spaces (which was recently acquired by Apple). These virtual platforms promise to optimize distance meeting experiences by simulating in-person meetings with real life avatars. More specifically, with the assistance of AR and Virtual Reality (VR) headsets (or a browser), users are able join virtual rooms and interact with 3D models and avatars like they do in physical word or bring holograms into their space. Virtual collaboration platforms are not a brand-new concept and have the capability to compete traditional video conferencing tools in scenarios of remote teams that need to work with 3D models or for teams that are looking for more realistic communication. However, the market opportunity is currently limited and affected by various factors, from AR/VR hardware capabilities to connectivity and trends in user behavior. The primary questions are what is the future/potential of virtual collaboration platforms when employees return to their offices after COVID-19, and what are the platform features that can drive demand and adoption?

Competitive Advantages of Virtual Collaboration Platforms

IMPACT


Virtual collaboration platforms promise to enhance meeting experiences and address some of the issues associated with traditional video conferencing tools, such as “Zoom fatigue,” which is known as the mental exhaustion that can be caused by extensive usage of video calls or their limited body language communication capabilities and feeling of presence .

More specifically, poor sound quality and sound delays are among the primary factors that affect User Experience (UX) and the way that participants process/memorize information during video conference calls. The solution of 3D audio or spatial sound that is applied in AR/VR solutions can create more realistic experiences, localize sounds in users’ surrounding environments, and contribute to information retention. At the same time, spatial audio also allows voices to sound natural and helps participants feel like they are in the same room. Moreover, immersive meetings with the assistance of AR/VR headsets helps users remain focused on the conversation and avoid disruptions such as looking their faces/expressions in the small window on the screen or checking/replying to emails. Immersive meetings in virtual rooms can minimize the disruption that can come from different backgrounds/rooms in traditional video calls. At the same time, the solution of virtual rooms with the presence of avatars can address the issue of asynchronous participation in terms of activated cameras/video. Last but not least, the ability to share and edit 3D models in real time without the limitations of 2D screens is the most important feature of virtual collaboration platforms.

Essential Enhancements for Virtual Collaboration Platforms

RECOMMENDATIONS


At the current stage of the market, virtual collaboration platforms are still in their early stage and certain improvements are essential to provide value, improve UX, and drive growth. For instance, 5G connectivity will enhance content quality and will minimize latency, better graphics and advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms will enable more realistic outcomes and interactions, and advanced computing capabilities will support more complex tasks beyond whiteboards and sticky notes. Also, hardware improvements such as battery life, weight, and price can encourage usage. Virtual collaboration platforms can leverage the experience from more mature platforms such as AR Remote assistance or tradition video conferencing tools in order to increase their customer base and remain competitive after COVID-19. More specifically:

  • Scalability: The number of participants that can attend a presentation/webinar is important selection criterion. At the current stage of the market, the average capacity is limited to 20 to 25 attendees.
  • User Interface (UI) Design: The design/motion of virtual objects should be realistic and human avatars/holograms should behave just as if they were in the physical world. Participants’ voices and virtual body orientation should be natural, providing a sense of being present in the same room. At the same time, user friendly design is essential feature for customer retention.
  • Hardware Agnostic: Users should be able to participate/share content regardless of which AR/VR device they own.
  • Rich platform features such as recording capabilities or compatibility with Microsoft Office or video conferencing platforms are significantly important, providing real value to users.
  • Reliability in terms of content accessibility and data privacy and security.

All in all, despite the numerous benefits of traditional video conferencing tools and virtual collaboration platforms, physical communication cannot be replaced. Face-to-face communication is a key enabler for engaging people.

 

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