- Location-based VR could unlock new flexible workspace business models.
- Members interact with both the physical and virtual worlds.
- New technologies are reducing costs and other barriers to adoption.
Virtual Reality (VR) has had a rough ride, struggling to gain traction in the real world for some time. There are many reasons for this. Primarily, it’s because the technology was expensive and provided unrealistic experiences with primitive graphics and clunky headsets.
But the times are changing.
VR is realising gains in the gaming industry where many new systems now provide realistic graphics and motion capture to improve the end user experience. Other pundits are predicting a rapid rise of VR headsets in the workplace as companies seek alternatives to Zoom.
While the technology and its applications continue to mature, there’s also a new business model in town. Location-based entertainment (LBE) VR is where a physical location hosts a VR experience, allowing users to interact in a way they can’t on an individual basis in their own home.
LBE VR raises the bar and offers you the opportunity to interact in the same (virtual and physical) space as a group of friends.
At the moment, LBE VR is finding its feet in the gaming and entertainment industries in places like theme parks, arcades and cinemas. Each location is adapted to the VR experience.
For example, you could tether a VR headset to a rollercoaster to provide new thrilling experiences. Or you could play your favourite video game, fighting zombies, solving puzzles or playing e-sports, for example, with your friends as you move around the same physical space.
LBE VR is also a savvy move to help virtual reality enter the mainstream, helping people try out this technology before they invest in it (it still costs around $999 to buy everything you need to get up and running with VR).
But what if you brought LBE VR into your workspace? It’s a novel idea — and one that could revolutionise the future of work.
If you want to embrace LBE VR, then you need to create separate VR zones in your space.
You could include a closed zone where members can roam around while wearing a VR headset, a projection area where they can see and interact with a virtual space or individual pods where they can enter the virtual world.
There are plenty of ways your members could interact with the virtual world of work. The most common workspace applications are VR meetings and training.
When it comes to virtual meetings, the set-up is relatively simple. You just need to provide members with a meeting room and VR headset to interact with one another. If you want to add a LBE VR flavour, then you could adapt your meeting rooms so that the physical and virtual worlds match, allowing for more realistic interactions between attendees.
Second, you could adapt your workspace to help users or members train for specific work-based scenarios. In fact, VR training is proving its worth to many companies. Research reveals it can improve knowledge retention, improve your decision-making and reaction times, and boost attentiveness while reducing training time.
LBE VR can benefit employers who want to train new team members or help existing staff learn a new skill. LBE VR training for high-risk, physical environments is already used by some businesses. Walmart, for example, uses VR to help employees learn how to prepare for crisis situations like active shooters.
Most LBE VR training experiences aren’t quite so extreme. Members could use the tech for virtual public speaking training, for example, helping them improve their stage presence and body language in a way other online training methods would struggle to achieve. Or you could run an online classroom where the physical and virtual worlds collide.
You could also radically rethink your shared spaces thanks to LBE VR. Instead of a physical ping pong table, why not introduce a shared tournament area where members can enter a virtual game for a little downtime?
Of course, all of these new virtual spaces could be linked to your other physical coworking spaces and members — allowing those working remotely to still visit your space in the virtual domain.
There is one barrier to VR adoption for many workspaces. Cost. And the industry is starting to break down this barrier with many new solutions hitting the market.
VR start-up Spatial, for example, is catching the attention of the market, providing high-quality virtual workspaces. One review in VentureBeat described the experience as: “the future of remote work and meetings”.
Spatial is available across a range of VR headsets, democratising the technology for the masses. Recently, the company also removed the VR element altogether, launching support for web browsers on a range of devices and desktops. Plus, the platform is free and available to everyone.
The webVR version just lets you access a virtual workspace by clicking a link. There are no headsets or downloads required.
For coworking spaces, this provides another potential (and cost-effective) entry route into the world of VR. You could use a solution like Spatial to help members meet up virtually and introduce this technology slowly into your space.
This also unlocks BYOD VR, where members can use their own VR headsets to interact with your virtual coworking space. Again, this reduces the cost for your space — and your members get to use a device they’re comfortable and familiar with.
When it comes to introducing VR, the key is the experience the member gets. And the key for coworking and other spaces is to examine how to build virtual reality into a space and still get a decent return on investment.