The internet has changed a lot of things since it first began as a collection of connected computers in the 1960s. Today, virtual spaces are making waves in people’s professional and personal lives.
I met with Jim Intriglia, a Speaker at the 2020 Educators in VR International Summit event, to gain some perspective on the benefits of virtual reality, virtual collaboration spaces, and how VR is being used by professionals in the business world.
Virtual spaces are really opening doors in the business world. One of the best parts about VR for business, is that it provides many of the benefits of meeting face to face without the logistics headaches. It allows us to build better relationships than a simple phone call since this technology feels more like a real-life meeting to our brains.
Jim: Excellent points, Taylor. At the Educators in VR 2020 International Summit, VR education thought-leaders, subject matter experts and industry leaders were brought together for a week-long virtual event in Microsoft's virtual reality platform, Altspace.
I cannot emphasize enough how many business relationships and collaborations were established during the course of that event, that will benefit education, educators, K-12 academic and professional students that are increasingly engaging VR learning and training programs worldwide.
My research partner, Jerad Bitner, and I, enjoyed the opportunity to present our year-long research findings at the summit event, to an audience that was eager to engage the topic of VR applications for business and professional use.
As you point out, a VR meeting experience engages most of the senses that we use in the real world, with the result that we can establish real-world relationships as a result of a shared VR experience with another person.
During the week-long Educators in VR Summit event, I had the opportunity to interact with more people than I would have physically been able to interact with, if the event was held in the physical real world.
One reason for this, is that the time normally needed to travel to a physical event, and between physical presentation rooms, is eliminated in a virtual event.
With a couple of clicks of a VR headset hand controller or PC/laptop mouse, I can teleport to any event or social space, in a matter of seconds. Further, I can send a contact request to a speaker or event attendee, with a click or two.
During the course of this event, I had the opportunity to engage with many remarkable people, many of which I'll continue the conversation begun at 2020 summit, long into the current year and going forward. This is in sharp contrast with physical events that I've attended, whereby physical and other factors limited the number of people that I could have meaningful engagements with, during the course of an event.
Taylor: In some instances, it’s even better than meeting in real life because avatars allow you to get to know a person for who they truly are. Their ideas, their skills, their true value is at the forefront rather than their appearance. Plus, who doesn’t love the idea of achieving professional development and top-notch networking while you’re wearing pajamas?
Jim: We're learning that there is much more to a VR avatar than meets the eye. For example, the selection and customization of an Avatar that will represent oneself in a VR space is interesting in itself.
Reason being, is we capture some essence of our self, or how we want others to perceive us, during the process whereby we select a base Avatar from a VR space catalog, and begin to customize that avatar to represent us in some space, domain or role.
As you point out, when engaging with another person's avatar in a virtual space, we largely have to rely on what the person is verbally saying, taking cues from their voice and visual gestures that they make using their avatar.
While we do get some visual cues from interpreting the nature of their avatar's appearance, we largely have to go by what is being communicated to us by the content of what is being said and expressed, rather than by visual appearance, as is the tendency in real world interactions.
Taylor: With a VR event, there’s also no need to rent a conference space.
Jim: That's true, as virtual spaces are inexpensive to secure presently, and can be dynamically sized to accommodate attendees. The characteristics of a VR event lowers the cost of hosting an event, which significantly reduces or eliminates the cost of expenses related to securing an event space and traveling to the event location.
Another key advantage of virtual events is the management of disruptive attendees. In Altspace, it is easy for an event moderator to communicate and warn an attending avatar, if their behavior at an event is affecting other attendee's experience.
Event trolls and bullies, as well as other disruptive attendees that do not heed the warnings of event Moderators, can be quickly dispatched out of the event space, and banned from re-entering the current or future events.
Managing disruptive attendees for speakers and event moderators for real-world events is a skill in itself, that takes time and practice to use effectively, when needed. Oftentimes, these is no graceful means to manage disruptive attendee(s) quickly, without causing an obvious disruption to the event in progress.
The Oculus Quest 2, a self-contained VR headset priced at just $299, significantly lowers the barrier of entry for the average person that is seeking to be entertained while learning, meeting other people, and collaborating on a variety of things, all in a virtual space.
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