conference calls

Virtual Reality will Change the Way We Conference

This post is an expert from Lily Snyder’s talk at IIEX Europe: VR Gives Business People Super Powers

We, at Doghead Simulations, were tired of facing the same pain points of conference calls. We were frustrated with the technological trouble of getting on a conference call and once connected, not knowing if the person on the other end was paying attention to what we were saying.

That's when we realized that we had the power to bring conference calls into the 21st century.

What we did, was used virtual reality to create collaborative virtual space for our customers with virtual projects teams, remote customers, and who provide virtual training. Humans are naturally collaborative and expressive creatures. We talk with our hands and learn by interacting with objects. We are better enabled to come up with new ideas when we work together around a shared writing space like a whiteboard.

We also live in a global world where our teams and customers are all over the globe. We are no longer bound by geography or time zones. For years we have depended on teleconference calls and web conferences to communicate with one another. Unfortunately, these technologies do not allow us the full range of communication that we need to really be able to work with one another. These are outdated experience.

To combat this, we harnessed the power of virtual reality. We do more than simply bring people together in the same virtual room. We create personal, human experiences. Our customers moved to virtual reality because it gives them the means that traditional conferencing solutions do not.

For example, they are able to host leadership and management training workshops where before they would be stuck to single person talking on a webinar. They use VR to walk students through how to apply for graduate schools outside of their country. Additionally, VR lets people create experiments for situations they can’t afford to replicate in real life. Such as conceptualizing the use of a new product.

Simply put, virtual reality is better than traditional conference calls.

In traditional phone conferences you zone out. How many times have you found yourself swiping through your social media instead of paying attention to the call? On telephone calls, it is difficult to really connect with the person on the other end.

One time, at a previous company, I was with my team on a conference call. I needed my team’s input for project planning. I introduced the purpose of the meeting and opened the floor to my team. What happened next? The total sound of silence. No one said anything and I could see their microphones were on mute! It was so painful to draw them out and get people to start talking. Where, if we were all in the same room together I knew they couldn’t just mute themselves.

You may argue that we should have used video for the call. If we could all see each other then we’d be forced to talk. Video calls may show facial expressions and people’s faces but they are not popular. In fact, less than 11% of people use video for conference calls. For people who work from home, video calls are an invasion of privacy. It is difficult to get a sense of hand gestures and body language when all you can see is the screen boxed around their face. 

One study was done on NBA basketball players. It was found that, “NBA players who touch each other during games (fist bump, high-five, head grab) cooperate more and outperform their prickly counterparts on other teams.” Wouldn’t it be great if we would bring this sense of trust and team building back to our remote teams?

We live in a three-dimensional world. When we’re in a meeting or interview we can see, touch, and feel everything around us. Virtual reality gets us closer to being in the real world together. When you are in virtual reality, you are completely immersed in the experience. When it comes to running meetings or workshops, your team will be immersed in a scenario and they will be fully involved in that experience.

The first time my team met in VR for a meeting, it was surreal. We all stood in a circle. When it came my turn to talk, I could see everyone’s heads and bodies turn to focus on me. 40 minutes passed before anyone noticed the time. That's how involved into the discussion we were due to the immersive environment. When has that ever happened on a traditional conference call?

We experience our work and each other more than through voice and facial expressions. Virtual reality gives us that next level of interaction. Virtual reality provides spatial presence. When in VR we feel a personal bubble. We can sense how far or close someone is via their voice and avatar’s presence. We have a much better idea of interactions because people actually walk around. We can see what they are looking at or pointing too because head and hand movement is tracked.

In video calls and web conferences we can share our screens but only the person sharing it can interact with what’s being displayed. In virtual relaity however, anyone can point to or manipulate a drawing, object, or text and everyone else can see them. Virtual reality creates true human connection through immersive collaboration.

We are working on virtual reality meetings spaces, not just because the technology is really cool but because we believe it will truly help teams work better together and take their ideas to the next level.