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In the Zone

Metaverse meeting tech: Come together, virtually

Kevin Jacoby's picture

by Kevin Jacoby on 09/22/2022
Blog Category: advanced-technologies

Metaverse technology may be new, but it’s surprisingly easy to find a metaverse meeting space.

A growing number of suppliers are eager to invite your hybrid workforce into the infinite space of Web3. They include not only tiny startups, but also industry giants such as Google, Meta and Microsoft.

But is today’s metaverse a good place for you and your team to work together? It really depends.

On the one hand, virtual environments offer immersive collaboration, easy access to multimedia training tools, and a feeling of togetherness. All that far surpasses the cold separation of video chats on Zoom, Teams and Meet.

Horizon Workrooms virtual meeting

Meta’s Horizon Workrooms: Welcoming both virtual avatars & video callers

On the other hand, the metaverse still exists in a Wild West status. Even the most stable, feature-rich platforms often come with high doses of confusion, glitches, tech issues—even motion sickness.

Despite those setbacks, it’s hard to imagine a future without some aspect of metaverse technology pervading our lives. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that tech like this can prove invaluable.

Accenture’s bold trial

Accenture certainly thinks so. Last year, the consulting firm bought 60,000 Oculus VR headsets from Facebook parent Meta.

Accenture plans to use the VR headsets when onboarding the 150,000 new employees it hires each year. Now those newbies will spend their first days at work on what Accenture calls the “Nth Floor.” That’s a corporate metaverse developed for the firm by Microsoft.

Once there, new Accenture employees will find themselves immersed in a custom virtual environment. They’ll have access to interactive training materials, videos and various meeting spaces where they can give a virtual “hey” to their fellow hires.

Sure, Accenture employees can slide on their goggles while working from Accenture’s main campus in Florham Park, N.J. But the real charm of this system is that they can also enter the Accenture metaverse from a hotel in Helsinki, a hostel in Hong Kong, or anywhere else with a hot Wi-Fi signal.

Oculus 2 VR headset

To enter the metaverse, you’ll need a VR headset like the Oculus 2

Interested in giving metaverse meetings a try? For the price of an Oculus 2—around $400—you and your customers can get an idea of what Accenture’s virtual space looks like by checking in to Meta’s Horizon Workrooms or Microsoft Mesh. While there, you can also create a virtual space of your own.

Finding your (virtual) flow

It’s not only the big brands that offer metaverse meeting rooms. A bunch of metaverse startups have emerged, too. They include Arthur, Virbela, Glue and Spatial.

Another one is Teamflow. At first glance, it appears to be your typical tech startup—a scrappy insurgent that prides itself on being far more nimble and forward-thinking than the big guys.

But the real proof of Teamflow’s success is in its impressive client list. This startup has already landed accounts with Dropbox, Netflix and Uber, to name just a few.

Teamflow’s ace in the hole is its thoughtful design. Plus, the company has focused on a target demographic that values ease-of-use and competitive pricing.

Teamflow virtual meeting room

Teamflow lets you create a unique coworking office space 

Getting started with Teamflow is simple: You just create a virtual office. Prices start at free for up to 5 people, then go as high as $25 per employee per month.

With that, you’re ready to experience what Teamflow calls “spontaneous coworking.” The idea is to virtually wander through the space, letting serendipity happen as it can in a physical office.

There are virtual water coolers, open-plan offices, nooks, crannies and private meeting rooms. All give Teamflow inhabitants the chance to seek out like-minded coworkers and start new projects.

There’s some gee-whiz tech in Teamflow, to be sure. For instance, the sounds you’ll hear are governed by the virtual distance between your avatar and those of your coworkers.

This technology, known as “spatial audio,” helps to eliminate the cross talk that all too often plagues Zoom and Teams meetings. Spatial audio creates a remarkably lifelike environment. For instance, if you want to talk to another avatar, you must first virtually walk toward them, close enough that they can hear you.

Similarly, if you want to discuss a point in private, your avatar and another can virtually walk away from a larger group. By creating this virtual distance, you ensure that the rest of the group won’t be able to hear your brief confab.

Ready for prime time?

Those who love tech in general will see the metaverse workspace as decidedly neato burrito. But the stodgy set—those who describe Zoom with a four-letter word (the bad kind)—may have a hard time getting used to meeting in the metaverse.

Chief among their complaints will be the VR goggles. For one, they’re expensive. VR goggles also are heavy enough to become uncomfortable after wearing them for 30 minutes or so.

The other big worries of the stodgy set are likely to include security and privacy. And who can blame them? With Meta behind so much of the metaverse, it’s reasonable to have a bad Facebook-flavored taste in your mouth.

Still, there’s no stopping the metaverse revolution. Hybrid working—with employees sometimes in the office, sometimes at home—is here to stay. Sooner or later, we’ll all need to interact in the metaverse.

Now’s the time to get a head start. Meet these new metaverse hardware and software platforms. You might find a virtual reality that suits you.

 

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