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Can you work in VR as a team?

on a tranquil tuesday morning....

On a tranquil Tuesday morning in March, the heart of Paris awakened to the gentle touch of sunlight streaming through the window of a quaint, Parisian café. The dulcet tones of Miles Davis permeated the air, creating an atmosphere of serene elegance. Seated in solitude, I found solace in my corner, accompanied only by the steady hum of my laptop, an unwavering internet connection, and the aromatic allure of a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

Engrossed in an exhilarating architectural challenge for a valued client, I occasionally allowed my gaze to wander beyond the confines of my digital workspace. Through the café window, the streets beckoned with a subdued tranquility, as if holding their breath in anticipation of the day’s unfolding symphony. Eager to immerse myself further in the city’s captivating ambiance, I leaned forward, yearning to extend my view.

Just as I was on the cusp of peering into the enchanting Parisian street, fate intervened with an unexpected twist. A sudden, jarring impact reverberated through my skull, eliciting a startled exclamation. It turned out that my forehead had collided with an unlikely assailant—the unyielding surface of my printer. 

Collecting myself and gently massaging my throbbing forehead, I realized that while my surroundings evoked the essence of Paris, I was, in fact, transported back to the familiarity of my own cozy home office in rainy Holland. 

The incident served as a whimsical reminder of the power of VR and its ability to transport us to distant lands, even from the comfort of our own homes. I redirected my focus to the architectural challenge at hand, determined to infuse my work with the spirit and grandeur of the city that had so effortlessly captivated my senses.

Is it possible to embark on a thrilling virtual reality (VR) adventure while working? That’s no longer a mere whimsical inquiry. What truly intrigues us is whether we can traverse the realms of teamwork within the immersive expanse of VR. While video conferencing may suffice for remote collaboration, it remains imperfect, leaving us bereft of the authentic human connection that comes from genuine contact.

Driven by an insatiable curiosity, we boldly embarked on a two-week pilot project, with a band of four intrepid explorers, determined to unlock the untapped potential of working together in the vast expanse of VR. Equipped with sleek VR headsets, we meticulously pre-tested an array of software options, finally settling on the revolutionary Immersed.com as our vessel into this uncharted domain.

A multitude of questions propelled us forward on this audacious quest: How would the immersive virtual realm reshape our experience of work? Would it augment our productivity, enhance our focus, and infuse our days with unabashed joy? How would the social dynamics of virtual co-working unfold? Could we recreate the magic of in-person meetings, inspire dynamic brainstorming sessions, and revel in the marvel of spatial audio? Were we daring enough to fully immerse ourselves in this new reality, or would we find solace in a hybrid approach, blending the physical and the virtual within our company? Could this groundbreaking endeavor even herald a future where the trusty laptop takes a backseat, overshadowed by virtual desktops that thrive in the boundless expanses of the cloud?

join us as we delve deep into the unknown, peeling back the layers of virtual reality’s immense potential, forever altering the landscape of modern work. A symphony of exhilaration and uncertainty awaits, as we traverse the uncharted territory of virtual collaboration, unearthing the secrets of productivity, camaraderie, and the tantalizing possibility of a future where the lines between the physical and the virtual seamlessly blur.

Why is teamwork in virtual reality interesting?

  • Because the tech is cool, challenging, engaging, game changer, future of work?
  • Get to play with new gear 😉
  • Labor market: Do online interviews with candidates in our virtual office
  • Labor market: Stand out in an average world
  • HR: be together. As soon as we get together, we become one, we have fun and we “click”
  • Health: Better for your eyes because you don’t focus on a small screen
  • Commercial: Stand out in an exciting Way of Working
  • Commercial: Invite clients in our virtual office
  • Commercial: Nearshoring2.0 -> have locations around the globe and still the team “sits together”

Into the unknown

With anticipation soaring, we dove headfirst into the immersive realm of virtual reality. Our ambitious pilot spanned two weeks, with a bold directive: work entirely within VR for eight hours a day, removing our goggles only during breaks. After the first week, we embraced a hybrid approach, balancing four hours of virtual immersion with four hours of real-world grounding.

 

After 2 weeks, we came together (in VR) and had our retrospective and share our experiences; the good, the bad and the funny.

Immersed.com experiences

We’ve been working with the immersed software for 2 weeks. This is how we evaluated their product.

  • If you think you can type on your keyboard without looking, think again. Thanks to the pilot, we quickly became a lot better. Since the test,  pass through features have improved a lot.
  • Spatial Audio was not that good at the moment of the pilot. When colleagues having online meetings but sitting in the same room, their audio was interferring. We worked around this with connecting our headsets directly to the laptop, not to the VR goggles: no audio from the immersed environment.
  • Screensharing was difficult in VR
  • The rooms you can work in were really cool
  • Avatars could be better
  • The pixel quality could be improved. We’ve tried different resolutions but didn’t notice much improvements.
  • Sometimes the VR software crashed or we lost our (VR) hands.
  • Telephone support (you can use your smartphone in the VR environment) was not working.
  • Enabling/disabling gesture conrol was buggy.
  • Handtracking in Immersed was better than in other Oculus apps.
  • Collaboration rooms need better host management; when the host leaves, the rest seem stuck in the room. Also joining a collaboration room isn’t always as easy as it seems.

Meta Quest 2 experiences

During the pilot we used the Oculus/Meta quest 2 VR goggles. These Goggles are widely accepted and a lot of software vendors have support for these goggles.

  • Elite headband + custom face padding makes wearing it for 8 hours a day, for 5 days a week a bit better
  • The battery can’t support the VR goggles for a working day (<2 hours). You have to use the goggles with a wire.
  • While in VR, the wire needs to be long enough to be a bit more mobile but the wire will get stuck under your chair or other objects around you.
  • The goggles are rather heavy to wear for a full day
  • The stock head guard is not very comfortable over longer time. 
  • Drinking is very difficult with goggles on.
  •  the double-tap feature is pretty cool

Working with VR goggles

how did we experience working in VR (the combination of immersed + goggles + actual work)

  • Total immersion on your work. Great to focus on work and improved concentration. Some even lost track of time while working in VR.
  • Touch typing improved
  • Not able to drink and eat while wearing the headset
  • Spatial awareness is a bit of a problem: dropped phone on the floor instead of putting it on the desk (in the real world)
  • Bio-breaks are easy with the double-tap but it looks awkward for others…
  • Pair programming was a lot of fun.
  • Eyes get tired, start to burn, dry out a bit. People even used eye-drops.
  • It is tricky to work in VR with young kids around.
  • Positive reactions from colleagues in online meetings who met an avatar from the virtual world.
  • With the VR headset you socialize more during work and less during lunch when you put off the goggles. In real life it is the opposite.
  • Some had headaches after consistent use.

fails/funny

We had the most fun discussing our experiences for this topic 🙂

  • someone head bumped the printer
  • Drinking. Hot fluids are challenging. Drinking any other fluid without a straw looks very interesting in the VR world for other colleagues who suddenly see your head goes all the way back.
  • Somewhere at the end of the first week, we sat down in a mountain lodge and discussed the virtual art on the wall.
  • Trying to look at your watch on you actual wrist with VR goggles on is very useless and this habit was hard to lose.
  • The social aspect of “being together” in the VR world was much better than expected. It led to nice random conversations. When an avatar looks at you, it actually does something to you; like some looks at you. 
  • Someone Dropped his phone in real life. 
  • Someone hit himself on the face when he tried to scratch his nose. (forgot his headset was there)
  • Family around you have a lot of fun as well; interacting with you is challenging and see you move and behave is very funny to experience.
  • Bad hair weeks. With the headband of the goggles and optional headset, we stopped doing our hair in the morning because it was destroyed after an hour of working in VR.
  • (Disclaimer: we can’t say this acutally happened because we were in the VR world) It is possible to work completely naked in real life while being in VR 🙂

Conclusion

The final part of our pilot, where we need to ask ourselves the question: “is it possible to fully work in VR as a team/company?

Though we had a lot of fun during the pilot, the initial verdict would be “NO”

The gear is too heavy and the software needs to improve before you can use it 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

The social aspect effects are suprisingly good and better than expected. The co-working in VR services were a bit dissapointing. 

Working in VR for short periods (<4 hours) for hyper-focus, can work really well.

Will Co-working in VR be a thing? yes! we belief the current offerings are still in it infancy but we saw a glimpse of a future where a new and exciting way of working can reshape our labor market. The question is no longer where you work because in VR, we are together and but now on a beach, in space or somewhere high up in the mountains.

For sure we will embark on new adventures to discover how we can use VR technology (software and hardware)  to benefit our company and people and bring us closer together.

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