Businesses have plenty of time to adopt VR technology

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Video conferencing has proven its business value during the pandemic, when businesses depended on technology to provide collaboration among employees forced to work from home. Virtual reality could one day replace video as an even better medium for teamwork on the Internet – but experts agree that this possibility would take a decade or more to become a reality.

At this week’s Enterprise Connect, a panel of industry analysts and consultants were skeptical that virtual reality will overtake video meetings in the next 10 years. So far, immersive technology has shown clear benefits in training, automotive manufacturing, and scientific and medical research.

Global spending on virtual and augmented reality technologies will grow from $12 billion in 2020 to $73 billion in 2024, IDC predicts. The research firm expects business spending to drive growth.

Virtual reality proponents say immersive technology will dramatically improve online collaboration by making workers feel like they’re in one place. That sense of closeness, even in a virtual world, can be powerful for building stronger relationships, said OnConvergence analyst Tom Brannen.

“[Video] can only become so immersive. It can only go so far,” he said.

A group of analysts and consultants discuss at Enterprise Connect how the Metaverse could affect business collaboration.

Microsoft and Meta, formerly Facebook, have developed products like Mesh and Horizon Workrooms, respectively, to encourage people to collaborate using virtual reality. Still, it will take time for companies to quantify the value of VR before paying for the products, said Kevin Kieller, co-founder of consulting group enableUC. His experience with virtual reality did not convince him.

“I appreciated the difference [between video and VR]but I don’t know if that would have advanced a business meeting,” he said. “I don’t know if I could say it helped me make more sales.

Many companies don’t provide smartphones to their employees, so the idea of ​​many companies buying VR goggles to let workers join in a hands-free call is ludicrous, said TalkingPointz analyst Dave Michels.

“It’s going to happen. It’s going to be big. It’s going to be huge. It’s going to take decades [from now]“, Michels said, referring to virtual reality and the Metaverse, the next 3D-dominated Internet iteration.

Virtual reality, and even video, will always have a limited role in collaboration, which will remain primarily a face-to-face activity, said Communications Advantage consultant Robert Lee Harris. He predicted that many people would return to the office post-pandemic for the camaraderie, just as workout fans ditched their Peloton bikes to return to gyms.

“As soon as people were able to get back into spinning classes, they wanted to get back into real life,” he said.

Vendors expect to reap significant benefits from virtual reality eventually. However, panelists do not see the products becoming more interconnected than today’s video conferencing services.

Mike Gleason is a journalist specializing in unified communications and collaboration tools. He previously covered communities in the Massachusetts MetroWest region for the Milford Daily News, Walpole time, Sharon’s lawyer and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as local editor of Room. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.

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