August 12th, 2021
Why online meetings are better in VR
About two years ago, we ordered a handful of Oculus Rifts for some of our remote team, to try to up our remote collaboration. Turns out meeting in VR isn’t just more immersive and has better feeling, it’s super hilarious, too.
Here’s why it’s better than video conferencing:
Better feeling of presence
It feels like you’re there together. With facial expressions and the ability to use your hands, other people feel closer. You can set a shared background which creates a shared mood instantly, making you feel like you’re actually together at the same place. I love meeting in space or on the beach, for example.
It’s clear who’s looking at who. In video conferencing, everyone’s just looking… straight. There’s no room dynamic, and interaction becomes single-threaded. Not so in VR.
Multiple people can speak at once.
You can, let’s say, whisper to the person sitting next to you, without completely interrupting the larger meeting.
Because its fully immersed in the headset, it means people aren’t looking at their computer screens outside of the meeting.
You can use your hands.
Actually point at things, or one another. Or draw and point on the shared whiteboard, etc. Very liberating.
You can take selfies, “travel” to places together, play games together, etc. Totally breaks the serious feeling of a video conference. (Okay, almost too fun, sometimes.)
My favorite moment was when we were sitting at the beach (virtually, of course), and we’re about an hour into a meeting… suddenly this kangaroo jumps out of nowhere and scares the living breath out of all of us. Because not only had we forgotten we were in VR, we’d also forgotten that the background was a video. (Up until that point, there’d only been waves crashing in, but suddenly, well, a kangaroo jumped by in the real filming, and consequently scared us in VR, too.)
We’ve used gaming PCs + Oculus Rifts up until this point. That’s been the biggest drawbacks so far (yes, the Rift requires a PC). So it’s easily $1500 per person, and then there’s the installation, the cord management, managing updates, crashes, etc. It’s a bit of a mess and requires upkeep. In particular, it’s slow to start.
But fortunately Oculus Quest just came out. It’s everything you need for remote meetings in VR — it doesn’t need a PC, starts at $399, has great tracking and is super simple to start (it feels much more like a smartphone and less a… machine). I would recommend social apps like Rec Room or Bigscreen, and definitely Facebook Spaces once it makes it to the Quest.
So go forth and conquer in virtual reality, remote workers! The future is here.
See it for yourself
Bigscreen focuses on screen sharing, but is great for meetings too:
A cheesy promo video for Facebook Spaces:
And finally when it’s playing time, Rec Room is my favorite: