Author: Anthony Onesto
Get ready: Virtual Reality is about to change a critical area of your life. No, it’s not how you play games, watch movies or get diagnosed. It’s how you work.
More and more companies rely on the creative capacities of a dispersed workforce. New virtual tools will empower them to do just that.
Talent is everywhere these days, and the smart money is finding ways to tap its potential. The big corporate campus is becoming a thing of the past. VR makes every space your workspace. It unleashes workforce potential in unprecedented ways, and will completely transform the ways we collaborate.
The greatest challenge of a dispersed workforce is finding ways to replace the collaborations that happen in a face-to-face environment. That’s why companies like Apple still want big corporate HQs.
Photo Credit: Apple
VR can make you feel like you’re sitting next to your colleague, even if he or she is a continent away. What’s more, in a virtual environment, the ways you can collaborate go well beyond what’s possible in an office, and are limited only by our imagination.
As new virtual tools come online, you’ll see them increasingly geared towards creating meaningful work environments and events.
Microsoft’s just-announced HoloLens is a case in point. The product is aimed squarely at the workplace, which makes sense coming from the world’s leader in productivity software.
HoloLens generates augmented reality (AR), which merges a user’s physical environment with holographic representations of data.
A user – or users, working together – manipulate these holograms with simple hand gestures rather than clicking buttons or keys, without ever leaving their physical surroundings.
This is different from pure VR, which creates an immersive digital environment. Microsoft’s strategy is also different from rivals such as Facebook and HTC, who target gamers with their new VR gear, the Oculus Rift and Vive headsets.
HoloLens’s full potential is still several years in the future. Oculus and Vive are already in the marketplace at prices consumers can afford while Microsoft has only just released a $3,000 developer’s toolkit for HoloLens.
However, HoloLens is already compatible with 2D Windows applications, and plenty of developers are taking notice of HoloLens’s stunning 3D capabilities. Check out Razorfish’s deep-dive report on the platform to see how Volvo, Home Depot, and others are exploring these possibilities.
Conceptually, HoloLens has more in common with Google Glass, which was first released in 2013. But Google put their cart ahead of the horse. Google Glass lacked the software to unlock its potential fully, and its recording abilities sparked privacy concerns. Microsoft seems intent on avoiding this kind of misstep with HoloLens.
Google, however, is still deeply invested in augmented reality. They have released Cardboard, a $15 consumer VR headset, and are working on a new version of Google Glass for the enterprise. They also led a $542 million investment in AR startup Magic Leap.
Inevitably, all of this competition will be good for consumers. It will result in convergence as the best solutions rise to the top, and inspire others to create even better ones.
While pure VR may first gain traction among gamers, workplace users will soon recognize its potential to streamline and enhance everyday tasks. VR and AR will become essential parts of the corporate toolkit, much in the way social media has already been embraced in the workplace.
There is already a Virtual Desktop for VR that lets you use all of the productivity tools you know and love on your PC in an immersive environment.
In the near term, you will see all of the above – Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple – introduce VR tools for their existing products. These will tap immersive technology’s potential to enhance formal and informal collaborations through email, conference calls, online meetings, and hangouts.
VR and AR will soon become the new primary methods for meeting face-to-face within a company. Wearing a headset at work or while telecommuting will become commonplace, and socially acceptable.
This will reduce travel costs and expenses, and will make virtual experiences just as meaningful, or more so, than anything that happens within the walls of a corporate HQ.
So get ready, because the enhanced virtual workplace is coming soon to an office, couch, coffee shop, and beach near you!
Anthony Onesto is a business leader with more than 18 years of strategy, product, recruiting, and human resources experience.
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