Can you picture this? You’re in an empty conference room. You have your tablet at the table while you don a pair of flimsy glasses and instantly the room is alive with your colleagues.
On your left is the CEO, who is actually on a business trip in Minneapolis. On your right is the marketing director, currently stationed in London. And across the table is the company lawyer, actually at home sipping a cup of coffee.
They are all virtual projections, but so lifelike that you have no trouble getting down to business with them.
VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) technology that’s in the early stages of development today make this a scenario that is coming in a few more years. The impact on the workplace, your workplace, will be tremendous. How will this new technology change the way you do business?
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With VR and/or AR headsets or displays, you’ll find it easy to interact person-to-person, no matter where those other persons are on the planet. Their virtual presence makes Skype and video conferencing a thing of the past.
For example, a fully immersive HTC Vive headset features a front-facing camera with a full array of sensors to project the scene right in front of you. And Microsoft’s coming Holoport will put a 3D camera right in the room with yourself so you and your gestures are fully displayed, as is everything else in the room.
It’s almost like Star Wars or Star Trek come to life; with your VR glasses perched on your nose you can be in San Francisco and interact completely with people in New York, London or Shanghai. They’re all in the same room with you even though they’re really not.
The Rise of the Virtual Whiteboard
The virtual conference room has a whiteboard, of course. With your AR/VR glasses, you can clearly see what everyone is putting up on it. When there’s no more room, you scroll it down with the wave of a hand for more blank space. You will also be able to choose and then cut and paste anything that’s already on the board.
This will be an awesome feature to help in brainstorming sessions. You’ll be face-to-face, which is always helpful when generating new ideas. Most people think better when they can doodle and scribble right in front of their team members.
The technology to do this is almost in place. There are already apps for a virtual whiteboard with iPads and PCs, but they still need some tweaking to be fully functional. Surface Hub by Microsoft is edging close to becoming a fully functional VR. This is technology that is still in the developmental stage, but it’s edging closer to the real deal every single day.
Right now the tech headlines are going to companies that can put a virtual elephant in the room with you, like Magic Leap. But it’s all about to change and get way more serious and businesslike.
How About Drawing in 3D?
But who really needs a whiteboard at all when you can use this upcoming technology to draw in 3D? Three-dimensional sketches, in color, that can be rotated and turned inside out, are now a certainty in just a few more years.
So you can use your flesh and blood hands to create virtual items. From a cube to a ball. You will be able to draw the schematics of, say, a new car, and be able to walk all around it to see it from many different angles. Change the color or texture anyway you like. Google is also cashing in on this coming technology with their TiltBrush app.
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Soon You’ll Have 3D Prototypes Right in Front of You
You’ll be able to examine a virtual 3D model from a CAD file straight from engineering, without having to leave the conference room. This means that your location, and the location of co-workers, won’t be a barrier to complete collaboration anymore. You can all be physically in the same room going over a 3D schematic, or you can be scattered around the globe and still experience the whole shebang as if you were side-by-side.
Just a decade ago it was email that was considered the high-tech solution for remote collaboration. Then came webcams, and then came Skype. Each one was considered a great leap forward and it was, for its time. This technology is now fully developed about as far as it can go, built right into our mobile devices and laptops.
But VR and AR are just getting started in the business world. A headset like the Oculus Rift is still bulky and expensive. But that’s changing even as you read this. At some point surprisingly soon the VR tech will be lightweight and practically non-intrusive. This brave new world of VR and AR technology is on your doorstep. It’ll be knocking soon, and all you have to do is open the door and embrace it.