Published on May 14th, 2020 | by Emergent Enterprise0
You Can Now Attend VR Meetings—No Headset Required
As the “stay at home” era continues, many companies are giving more serious consideration to virtual reality meetings for their homebound employees. This post at Wired by Julian Chokkattu reports on a VR meeting solution from Spatial that doesn’t even require a headset from attendees. A big pushback from companies to VR is the cost of equipping all employees with VR headsets. This software allows users to attend a meeting even through their web browsers. Virtual meetings raises the UX of group gatherings in a big way over the Zoom-style video chats. The VR experience is a big step closer to real life. It’s not inconceivable that these types of meetings will be the “new normal” in the very near future.
Virtual-reality workspace startup Spatial is offering a free version for users. All you need is a web browser.
I SHOOK HANDS with a stranger the other day. Even made a fist bump. Before you get your pitchforks out, this all happened virtually. I was in my Brooklyn living room, wearing sweatpants and a hoodie, and I tapped knuckles with Spatial’s vice president of business development and strategy, who was standing in his own apartment 6 miles away. No hand sanitizer required.
Spatial is a startup that enables people to meet through augmented or virtual reality. It’s a little similar to the now defunct Facebook Spaces, except it has much broader support. You can use VR or mixed-reality headsets from a myriad of brands—from Microsoft’s HoloLens and Nreal’s Light to the Oculus Quest—as vehicles to meet in virtual spaces.
So far, the experience has required everyone to jack in using a headset in order to join a meeting. Today however, Spatial is announcing that it’s launching support for web browsers on desktops, Android, and iOS. Oh, and the platform is now completely free and open to everyone.
“In light of Covid, we’ve actually had an intense amount of demand—about a 1,000 percent increase,” Anand Agarawala, Spatial’s CEO and cofounder, tells me in a beautiful virtual room filled with sunlight and surrounded by mountains. “Zoom is not a good replacement for being in the office with other people, whereas something like VR gives you that level of presence and personification.”
He’s not wrong. I love my biweekly Zoom chats with my coworkers, but being able to stand next to someone’s virtual avatar (closer than 6 feet!) and watch their hands gesticulate while they talk makes me feel more connected and focused. Plus, I’m in a scenic room that I can move around in, and I can pick up and play with random objects while listening. It is, naturally, more engaging than staring at a grid of faces.
Until now, the burgeoning company has strictly been an enterprise-only service, with clients ranging from Mattel to Pfizer. It was meant to serve as a way for those in offices to connect with remote team members around the globe, but remote work has tremendously accelerated due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Jacob Loewenstein, the head of business at Spatial and the guy who gave me that virtual fist bump, says Spatial’s primary use case has been 3D design collaboration. Companies like Mattel have designers that bring their creations into virtual meeting rooms and iterate on them in the naturally collaborative environment. Then, the designers bring in the team from China to show off the final manufactured product as a 3D render to compare their work and suggest alterations. This kind of virtual collaboration doesn’t just allow people to work from all parts of the globe, it also removes the need for folks to fly to offices just to physically see product development.