VR: The future of video conferencing for businesses?
Few business leaders at the start of the pandemic would have thought that video conferencing would be anything more than a temporary solution to a temporary problem. Now, nine months down the line, we are still Zooming in order to hold business meetings. What was at first a safe and novel alternative, is now an exhausting chore.
Why are video team meetings so hard?
Participants on your weekly video meeting become tired faster than real-life meetings, due mostly to the lack of body language that participants can observe. During in-person communication, our brains use Professor Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 rule to decipher the meaning behind what’s being said. That is 7% verbal, 38% tone of voice and 55% body language. Video calls strip away most body language cues, but because the person is still visible onscreen, your brain continues to try and compute their non-verbal language. Therefore, your brain is working harder, trying to process information that is not available. This negatively impacts the amount of time your employees are able to concentrate because of mental fatigue.
How can VR gaming help improve the future of business video conferencing?
Instead of your employees all having live video streams of themselves as they do currently, with the use of VR (virtual reality) your meetings could instead look a lot different and boost the engagement of those attending the meeting.
The key to VR’s application to the platform of video conferencing is the creation and use of the digital avatar. A VR avatar is a digital representation of yourself visible to others using the same platform.
The reason why having an avatar works better for video conferencing, is that with the use of modern speech analysis techniques, your avatar can pick up on the tone of your voice and translate that into simple body language. If you are using a light tone, for example, your avatar would display a laid-back set of social cues, such as smiling and open gestures.
In addition, the avatar does not transmit everything you do to screen, thus people can feel more relaxed and even itch their nose free of derision. It is hoped by using an avatar in this way, that such conditions as ‘Zoom fatigue’ can be prevented as participants can both interpret the body language of each participant’s avatar whilst also not suffering from the feeling of being constantly observed.
Room for improvement
Before your business invests in this promising technology, there are some drawbacks to consider. One of the downsides is that to engage in the VR world, your employees would have to wear headgear which effectively closes the wearer off from the real world. This can be disorienting.
A best of both worlds’ solution could be what’s called augmented reality. AR uses technology such as AR glasses to superimpose avatars and features of the digital world, such as a presentation, onto reality itself. This technology would allow wearers to anchor their avatars in real-world scenarios, whilst eliminating the mental strain of indecipherable visual cues.
People would still have the comfortable anonymity and full body language access of an avatar but without the disorientating effects of being entirely transposed to another world. Although this is clearly an area in need of future exploration for business conferencing, it could be a crucial technology to creating more engaging meetings in the future.