Carter says the idea to drop staff into a virtual world came when the Innovation Factory realized one of their major networking events at the hub was a no-go in light of the province’s emergency orders requiring strict social distancing.
Bring VR to the remote workplace.
Story continues below advertisementCompetitions and networking events, like the annual Lion’s Lair series which pairs innovators with local business experts, are at the heart of the Innovation Factory’s directives, according to Carter.
As per the study conducted by Forbes on World’s Most Valuable Brands in October 2015, showed that 75% of these industries have created some form of virtual reality or augmented reality experience for customers or are the ones developing the technologies.
With COVID-19 likely to hinder networking events in the near future, Carter and company saw it was necessary to start looking at some sort of digital alternative.
“So we signed up with them for a month. We signed up for a whole suite, which is like an office,” Carter said. “And then we signed up for an auditorium to see how a large one to many events would go in this space, and it really gelled with staff.”VirBELA’s office suite boasts a virtual private campus with places to put digital logos, and choose different digital furniture configurations.
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But the highlight is its ability to create connectivity amongst a tight-knit office with customizable digital caricatures, according to Carter.
“The voice conversations and chats and those things, you don’t call anybody, we just get up and walk over to their office,” said Carter.
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Virtual Reality Conventions Are A Hit. Among the biggest reasons behind the rising popularity of virtual reality are the tech conventions. These are the venues where people might first learn about virtual reality and where the first time users experience it as well. The others go to not miss out on the latest. Some of the conventions are becoming really popular and ticket prices are skyrocketing. Companies that produce virtual reality headsets are using the conventions to build some hype for their upcoming products for users.
“It has stuff that’s amazing like a whiteboard feature that allows for sticky notes,” said Carter. “It really kind of brought back a little bit of the culture that was already starting to fade.”
Story continues below advertisementAlex Howland, president and founder of VirBELA, says the idea came to him about a decade ago while practicing as an organizational psychologist in San Diego, California.“I was getting my doctorate in San Diego, California, and was taking a couple classes online and also doing some assessing centers for development purposes where we’d put people through simulations over the course of a day or a week,” Howland said.
“And thought, you know, virtual environments would be kind of a cool place to bring students or professionals from around the world to interact and learn in a safe environment and how to work internationally and across cultures.”Howland paired up with fellow corporate psychologist Ron Rembisz and the duo’s idea finished second in an innovation contest. That success soon evolved into a grant for $1.74 million to explore the concept of a virtual workplace.
An early adopter was eXp Realty — VirBELA’s future parent company — who used the technology to connect 900 real estate agents as an alternative to buying or renting brick and mortar workspaces.“There were 900 agents when they started using VirBELA in mid-2016,” Howland said. “Today there are over 28,000.
The First Head-Mounted Displays – The Telesphere Mask and the Headsight. You might think that strapping a display on a person’s head is a relatively new idea, but it is not. The first head-mounted displays were developed as early as the 1960s. The Telesphere Mask was the first example of a head-mounted display, which provided 3D stereoscopic and wide vision with stereo sound. However, the device lacked certain immersion, because of it being a non-interactive medium. In 1961 two Philco Corporation engineers, Comeau and Bryan, came up with the Headsight. A head-mounted display, much like the Telesphere Mask, the Headsight featured magnetic motion tracking technology, which was connected to a close circuit camera. While the goggles can be named a precursor to modern virtual reality technology, they were not developed for entertainment purposes. Instead, they were developed for the military with the idea that a person would be able to immerse themselves in the remote viewing of dangerous situations.
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“So under four years, they went from 900 to over 28,000 and have shown that you can run your whole business in one of these virtual environments.”
Another huge advantage to the software is the ability to recruit from anywhere and creating a level playing field from staff across an entire country, says Howland.
“There’s that level of kind of watercooler talk, those informal collisions that happen in a brick-and-mortar that don’t happen on web conferencing.”Carter says as much as the platform has benefitted the Innovation Factory as a productivity tool, it’s likely not the hosting solution for the hub’s well-attended competitions, like the Lion’s Lair.
“To get into VirBELA, you have to install something on your computer,” Carter said. “That’s actually not an option for some of our clients or some of our partners. So if you’re a large corporation, your I.T. department hasn’t blessed this, then you can’t participate.”
Its not just about the fun and games. Other than providing action-packed, fun-filled entertainment for the entire family, VR plays a big role to help humanity as developers use it to help those in need in ways that were unimaginable 20 years ago. Some use it to cure phantom pain among amputee victims, while others rely on VR to provide therapy for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. VR has also been proven to help children with autism by teaching them social cues and real world lessons. It is being used as a practice board for surgical students before they make the first cut. There is even a VR content targeted at young adults that simulates their physical condition when they get to their 60s, and thus encourages them to save for the future.
For now, Carter says he’s sold on the platform, which is providing 12 staff members with some “much-needed connectivity.”
“How far we take it? So just in the last couple of months of this looks like it’s a valuable tool.”
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