The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the way we live, work, and collaborate. But it’s not just the pandemic that’s stirring the buzz around the future of communications technology. Cross-reality collaborative experiences are necessary to innovate and improve global cooperation. Let’s explore disruptive technologies that will shape the comms tech industry in the upcoming years.
Tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Slack have done a great job of helping us work effectively during the pandemic.
While we’re holed up at home and social distance, they improve collaboration and engagement. And yet there’s a downside to remote work tools.
Remote meetings can be tiring and stressful. For example, studies suggest that seeing your facial expressions during an online meeting can be an additional stressor.
Moreover, transmission delay during a video call, or lag in other words, can give false negative impressions. With delays over 1.2 seconds, a person talking is perceived as less attentive. No one likes it when they aren’t being listened to.
There’s also choppy connection, dropping calls, frozen screens, and background noise to add to the bag of frustrations.
The lack of in-person interactions during video conferencing also plays a few tricks on us.
First, we miss out on those impromptu interactions with our colleagues. For example, catch-ups that strengthen team bonds and increase engagement. Employees are also more likely to seek advice during water-cooler talk or simply when in a more relaxed environment.
In short, spontaneous workplace socializing leads to more productivity and engagement. Achieving this level of spontaneity via remote work tools is difficult, verging on impossible.
Needless to say, there’s a huge room for improvement in communications technology. Plus, there’s also a growing demand for such improvement considering the prevailing trend toward remote work.
Disclaimer: When talking about cross-reality communication, we refer to headsets in all cases. Headsets are necessary to provide the level of immersion and interaction for remote meetings.
Augmented reality (AR) projects images, data, or animations into the real world. The user can see and interact with the overlaid image and the physical environment.
Mixed reality (MR) is a blend of virtual reality and augmented reality, where you can interact with and manipulate the projected content in a real-world environment. The interaction is possible via built-in sensors and cameras. Digital objects generated in mixed reality are responsive to their surroundings.
Note: The terms augmented reality and mixed reality are often used interchangeably. This is because the capabilities of augmented reality tech are currently on par with mixed reality.
Virtual reality (VR) immerses the user in an entirely simulated world. The user only sees what the headset projects, giving the experience a higher level of immersion.
All technologies can be used to provide interactive and highly collaborative remote work experiences across industries.
Check out our new video on cross-reality.
By leveraging the immersive potential of VR, AR, and MR we can eliminate the lack of interactivity present in the current remote collaboration tools.
A study by Jeremy Bailenson from Stanford University found that people who interacted with others in AR/MR felt the interaction was similar to an in-person meeting.
Another study by Bailenson confirmed that VR evoked similar real-world experiences among users participating in VR interactions.
Immersive technologies can also boost meeting engagement by enabling interaction with data, e.g., charts, statistics, images. Data visualization helps digest information and showcase the results of analyses and simulations.
In a project for the PONS publishing house, our team created a mixed reality experience where two people speaking different languages worked on a car’s engine. A built-in AI-based engine translated the conversations in real time while the two people manipulated the engine’s hologram.
Using cross-reality technologies, people can collaborate and discuss the projected material. This can be taken even further to, for example, enable truly immersive prototyping sessions.
VR can also create highly productive common spaces for the participants to work on projects collaboratively. Just think about the bursts of creativity such sessions could spark.
For example, Hyundai and Kia have created a virtual reality design evaluation system, where teams can work remotely on designs.
While VR and MR headset technology is evolving rapidly, immersive AR glasses are quite a few years away. In an interview with The Verge, Mark Zuckerberg said that to talk about an immersive everyday AR experience, we have to look to glasses, not headsets.
Squeezing enough computing power and battery into lightweight glasses is currently unachievable technologically. Michael Abrash, head of Facebook Reality Labs Research, says we’re looking at five to 10 years before the technology is sophisticated enough to fit into an eyeglass frame.
However, there are rumors that Apple is working on AR glasses. But whether the device will feature full 3D integration and not only heads-up display remains to be seen.
But the work is very much happening, and many companies have had some great results with cross-reality tech.
With its revolutionary headset HoloLens and its successor HoloLens 2, Microsoft has placed itself on top of the companies developing mixed reality solutions.
HoloLens 2 features full eye and hand tracking, 3D imagery, and improved field of vision compared to HoloLens. Microsoft’s goal is to build and support virtual workspaces.
While Magic Leap is leaving the entertainment sector, the company is evolving its remote collaboration offer, gearing toward enterprises. In March 2020, Magic Leap partnered with Spatial, a cross-reality collaboration platform, to create a holographic 3D workspace experience.
Magic Leap is also delivering remote collaborative meetings through a partnership with Flow Immersive, where users can work on immersive presentations.
Facebook is heavily developing its VR and AR capabilities. With the release of the Quest 2 headset, the company catapulted itself to the top of VR tech makers. Quest 2 features a stronger ecosystem, reduced weight, improved screen, and computing power.
In September, Facebook announced the launch of Project Aria that explores the capabilities and considerations for wearable AR tech. Project Aria puts Facebook one step closer to building immersive AR glasses.
While there have been leaks about Apple’s pursuit of AR and VR tech, nothing’s been confirmed yet. From what’s been leaked, we can assume that Apple Glass is going to pack a few of the fancy features — e.g., LiDAR Scanner — that enhance the AR technology’s ability to sense the surrounding world.
Nvidia is working on AR headsets that can potentially cater to users with various eyesight problems. The Foveated AR headset and the Prescription AR glasses are two tech solutions that let users who wear eyeglasses enjoy AR experiences. The Foveated AR headset particularly deserves attention as this technology claims to closely match the human visual perception.
While remote meeting software is still a great means of communication, a need for more immersive interaction and collaboration has become palpable — especially since we’re most likely to rely on remote work long-term.
Delivering immersive collaboration opportunities is a huge chance for companies to differentiate themselves, attract talent, and improve customer experiences. Getting ahead of the pack now can spell out huge perks later on.
We delve deeper into cross-reality collaboration options in our new video. Check it out below.