VR For Virtual Meetings: The Ultimate Guide

virtual meetings with virtual or augmented reality ultimate guide

The digital workplace of the future is not dependent on a physical place where you meet – with immersive technology you can have digital meetings over long distances with VR or AR. This aspect of social VR / AR is not least a sustainability factor. Think of all the carbon dioxide emissions an organization can save if they skip both air, train and car – and instead simply put on a pair of glasses, from home or perhaps from a new kind of “phone booth” in the office. And best of all? That future is here NOW .

In this guide you will find out why companies should look at the possibilities of VR meetings, what kinds of meetings can be run effectively with this technology, what different VR apps are on the market, and not least how businesses can go about implementing this exciting technology. 

7 reasons to try VR for virtual meetings

While preferring to meet face to face is understandable, VR does have numerous benefits as a digital meeting tool – and not just when distance is a factor! Whether compared to video conferencing, phone meetings or “in the flesh” meetings, here are the reasons to start using VR technology in your business. By using VR for remote meetings, you can…

  1. Get the feeling of presence – the immersive effect: You can’t compare the feeling of being in the same room in VR to being seen through a screen or heard on the phone. In VR it feels like you are there with your whole body – you can make eye contact with the person you are talking to, you can hear from where in the room someone else is talking, lean in and whisper to the person next to you without the others hearing. This results in  a sense of co-presence, with the other participants, making VR meetings feeling more like a real meeting face to face. 

  2. Save money – and time: When you have the possibility to cut down on physical travel thanks to VR, you can achieve a huge increase in efficiency and make big savings. 

  3. Save the environment: Traveling less for pure business purposes also means less carbon emissions. Today we do not have the luxury of NOT working as environmentally sustainably as we can – and this applies to all parts of the business, meetings included. 

  4. Remove distractions: Participants in regular conference calls report that they are distracted for an average of 15 minutes at each meeting. With VR, you can run more effective meetings because participants can’t look away at their smartphones, and are guaranteed to be present in the same virtual environment. 

  5. Change the location to “impossible” or otherwise impractical places: VR meetings offer endless opportunities for location changes that can either provide excitement and change or be connected to the topic of the meeting. When the meeting becomes an experience, the content will be more sticky to the participants – making the meeting effectively a mini-retreat! 

  6. Interact with 3D objects in otherwise impossible ways: Through VR you can not only pick up screens, documents, pictures and videos during the meeting. You can also import and examine a digital prototype of, for example, the building or product that the meeting is about. Or why not create products together in VR without having to manufacture physical prototypes, just like Volvo and other vehicle manufacturers do to save millions in development costs? 

  7. Innovate! VR and AR – new, engaging and exciting – are key technologies for digital transformation. Your organization has the opportunity to become a pioneer in developing entirely new ways of working with these tools. You can work effectively with innovation in practice, in a truly cross-functional way… without huge investments and organizational changes.

8 methods / meeting types suitable for distance meetings with VR

You have probably already started thinking of ways to achieve the benefits that we just listed, based on how you are already working today. To give some examples of types of meetings where you can quickly start exploring the business benefits of VR:

  • Design reviews: When an unfinished or finished product design is to be displayed, it is best done in 3D. With VR, you avoid 3D printing and can iterate quickly between prototype stages. Can also be used for focus groups, just like Electrolux are doing. 
  • Sprint standups: Short effective meetings can also involve colleagues from other offices if you run them in VR. 
  • Sales presentations: Imagine replacing customer visits for a traveling salesman… with bidding over preset VR headsets to the customer, and the seller can take the meeting from anywhere! 
  • Pair programming: Code together? You can sit next to each other and watch each other’s work, with as many screens as you want … over any distance. 
  • Casual co-working: Do you work alone and miss having co-workers around? Try working from a virtual cafe to get in the right ambience and atmosphere – and in addition, be able to take “coffee breaks” with other ambitious people in VR. 
  • Workshops: Flying in key personnel from different company offices for a workshop is costly – and unnecessary. Try meeting in VR instead! 
  • Lectures/lessons: How education can be transformed by VR is a chapter in itself, but lectures for large groups can also be made more accessible with VR. 
  • Group work: Like the example with “co-working” above, school students can have the opportunity to collaborate with students from other parts of the world through VR.

What other types of meetings can you think of?

Over 30 tools and apps for digital meetings with VR

Welcome to the deepest guide on the web to different options for meeting in VR. We have divided the list into different categories that are described separately below, as different types of apps are built for different purposes. Eventually, we will fill up with more info about each app, including proper tests / reviews. We do not strive for this guide to be absolutely complete, but if you think we have missed an obvious tool – let us know and we’ll fix it!

Apps for social VR

These platforms are built to feel much like chat rooms or “Second Life”, i e completely open places where you can meet different kinds of people and talk or engage in different activities together.

vTime XR

Available for: cardboard, oculus go, oculus quest, steam, oculus PC, mobile AR

In vTime you can have meetings with up to three other people at the same time. You can choose from around 20 different environments, ranging from campfires to spaceships and on the sea floor. The idea behind vTime is very simple but works really well. You choose rooms and whom you want to talk to, then you are all transported to a place where you all sit down and look at each other. In vTime you sit in a stationary position and the conversation is in focus. For meetings on your own or with small groups, it is a convenient alternative for social VR as it’s available on many platforms. In addition, the environments and avatars are very well modeled. It is also possible to upload your own 360 pictures and use as environments.

Facebook Horizon

Available for: Quest, Rift (coming 2020)

After some exciting social VR experiments from Facebook / Oculus, their new platform Horizon is underway in 2020. It looks like a kind of “Second Life meets Pixar” world where you will be able to jump into many social activities and mini games together.

AltSpace

Available for: Go, Quest, Rift, Steam, flat desktop

Altspace is one of the oldest VR meeting apps . On the one hand you can use it to meet friends in private rooms where only you hear what is being said, but you can also go exploring in rooms and environments to meet others. You can play board games, draw, watch a standup show, sing karaoke and a variety of other activities.

When you start Altspace you end up in a lobby which is a common space for everyone. Then you can either create a private room and invite others, or visit any of the activities available. You can also see a schedule of upcoming group activities – you could say that the focus of Altspace is to gather groups for specific “events”. There have been live concerts, weddings, game nights, meditation sessions, language lessons and lots of other things.

Altspace has previously had apps on both Mac and Android phones, but those versions were abandoned over time – and after being acquired by Microsoft 2018, it seems unlikely that they will return.


Mozilla Hubs

Available for: Almost Everything

Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, is of great importance for the development of the common webXR protocols that are being put in place – and thus the building blocks of the 3-dimensional internet that we will live in through VR and AR. Hubs is Mozilla’s social VR platform which is basically very simple and spartan in design. However, through their web tool “Spoke”, you have the opportunity to easily create and insert your own 3D models of environments and objects and meet others. Hubs is accessed through the browser in your VR headset and even works with Cardboard VR glasses – or in flat mode on your normal browser.

Apps for screen sharing / social media consumption

In these apps, (mostly traditional 2D) screens are central, and you can have a shared viewing experience where participants share the interest in what is shown on the screen… inside VR.

Big Screen

Available for: Go, Quest, PCVR

Big Screen is like a virtual LAN party, or as a pure social entertainment app for VR. You sit (virtually) in the same room with each small screen if you want (you can mirror your ordinary computer) and a large screen is displayed for everyone. Bigscreen can be used to play regular “flat” multiplayer games such as being on the couch next to each other, or to play movies from your computer in private groups – or, of course, if you want to run a powerpoint presentation.

Recently, Bigscreen has developed with a strong focus on pure entertainment, and there are many “social channels” with broadcasts of various kinds – content where you, along with others, can watch movies, cartoons, music videos, news and much more . Special shows are also arranged so that you can, for example, follow different VR-related Youtubers that do weekly broadcasts.

Oculus Venues

Available for: Go, Quest

Venues is an interesting platform even though it is not possible to organize your own meetings. Instead, it is entirely for live broadcasts of specific events that you can watch in a virtual stadium environment, along with hundreds of other participants that you can talk to while you hear the noise from the others around. They regularly broadcast concerts, standups, sports broadcasts, occasional films and even keynotes from Facebook’s own F8 conferences in the spring and Oculus Connect in the fall. Many of the broadcasts take place in stereoscopic VR180, so you are in the audience in one “half-sphere” and a performance on a huge scale in front of you.

Venues is made for mobile / standalone VR and is therefore not very impressive in terms of 3D graphics on avatars and the virtual environment, but the video broadcast quality is high class and it is a fantastic experience of social VR to “go to events” in Venues.

Oculus TV

Available for: Go, Quest

Oculus TV came out shortly after Oculus Go and together with Venues and Rooms would provide a basic range of social apps for the platform. However, Oculus TV has not really had a social function until very recently,. Now you can actually watch flat or 360 content together on Go or Quest.

ImmersedVR

Available for: Go, Quest

We’ll have more info on Immersed soon.

Platforms for productive VR meetings

Here we have the apps that most directly aim to solve the challenge of “having regular meetings for jobs etc – but in VR”. Shared screens, virtual whiteboards and low-key, “work-like” environments are everyday foods for these options. A clear difference to the others is also the pricing model, as they, like other Saas (software as a service) products, are based on licensing cost per user.

Spatial

Available for: Hololens, Magic Leap, Quest, flat desktop

Spatial is a pure collaborative app for productive meetings at a distance, where you can easily pick up and work with both flat media (text, images, videos) and 3D objects in different ways. A nice detail is how the participants’ real faces are scanned and turned into digital avatars with their own looks. Spatial has AR as its focus, but is also available in beta for Oculus Quest.

Engage

Available for: PCVR, Quest, flat desktop

Engage comes from the company “VR Education” and is a popular tool among many teachers and schools. You can use Engage socially with smaller groups for free, and jump into events, conferences and recorded lectures and lessons from other users.

Rumii

Available for: Go, Quest, PCVR

Rumii’s main focus is the digital classroom. (More info on Rumii soon!)

Glue

Available for: Quest, PCVR

Link to Glue video presentation

More info about Finnish Glue soon!

MeetinVR

Available for: ?

Danish platform for digital meetings in VR.

Meetingroom.io

Available for: ?

More info coming soon!

Arthur

Available for: ?

Link to Arthur video presentation

Silicon Valley-based social VR startup. Fun facts about Arthur: They used their own platform to invite investors and have digital pitch meetings in VR. Legendary Andreesen Horowitz was one of the VC companies the pitch went home with.

Constructive: 3D interaction in VR

In these apps you can examine or even create 3D objects together.

SculptrVR

Available for: Go, Quest, PCVR

More like a creative game with multiplayer functionality . In SculptrVR you sculpt with freehand tools, so you are more likely to create an artistic statue than a complex building.

Masterpiece

Available for: PCVR

Masterpiece is a professional 3D modeling tool for VR, with the bonus that you can work collaboratively in multiplayer. Extremely powerful – watch the video!

Dimension10

Available at: ?

More info coming soon!

InsiteVR

Available for: ?

More info coming soon!

The Wild

Available for: PCVR, Quest

More info coming soon!

Hyper

Available at: ?

More info coming soon!

Game-oriented social VR apps

These are similar to the “social” apps at the top, but are even more focused on games as a joint activity.

Rec Room

Available for: Quest, PCVR, PSVR, iPad

When you start Rec Room you can choose from a few simple avatars, clothes and hairstyles. Just like most other social games, it’s easy to pick up and use directly without a manual. Rec Room is not a game that you need to plug strategy or button combinations into, just jump in and see what happens.

In the game that can almost be described as a social sandbox, it is late play and fun that applies. You can play paintball, ghost ball, charades and frisbee golf, or just hang out with others in the social rooms.

Over time, Rec Room has also received powerful creator tools and there are millions of user-built rooms and worlds to explore.

VR Chat

Available for: Quest, PCVR, Flat desktop

VR Chat is one of the oldest social VR apps and differs slightly from the others. The point is still to meet other people, but also to share your own worlds and environments. VR crawls are held regularly, where new worlds are visited together in groups. The great thing about VR Chat is that you can build your own environments and entire worlds yourself with the help of the 3d engine Unity. Based on the interest of the target group, it has resulted in a large number of game worlds and mini-games to explore. You can also customize your own VR avatar exactly as you want it – or copy an avatar from someone you meet inside. Here, too, it is very much inspired by games, anime and other popular culture.

If you are interested in visiting cool, strange, thought-provoking and perhaps provocative worlds together with others, then VR Chat is for you.

Shut down VR meeting platforms

RIP these projects…

  • Facebook Spaces
  • Oculus Rooms
  • Oculus Social
  • Mimesys (acquired by Magic Leap)
  • Vive Sync?

Others

Here are some extra entries for those who want to explore the jungle of social VR meetings even deeper.

For those interested, we also recommend checking out blogger Ryan Schultz who focuses on monitoring virtual worlds in the style of High Fidelity and Sansar. He has put together a good and clear comparison chart of the features of 16 different social VR platforms, including a few not mentioned yet in this guide.

4 limitations with today’s VR for digital meetings

We have come a long way, but we are still at the beginning of the development of immersive technology. If you compare with other ways of having remote meetings – video calls or telephone meetings – then VR meetings have the benefits that we listed above. But there are also some areas where today’s VR technology is lagging behind other digital tools:

Good text input tools are still missing

For our computers, we have the keyboard and the mouse. For the phone, we have the touch screen and our fingers. In particular for text input, these tools are probably optimal for each format. For VR, however, we have hand controls that are developed primarily for games and 3D interaction.

While it is possible to quickly sketch on a whiteboard or manipulate 3D objects when we have meetings in VR, typing on virtual keyboards is not very fast. If you are a great blind typist you can sit in front of your computer with your VR headset on! But we are eagerly anticipating a smooth input tool for VR (and AR) that will feel as smooth as a mouse + keyboard in our everyday use.

Read more: The future of interaction in VR / AR: what comes after hand controllers?

Surreal avatars

Compared to video conferencing / skype calls, it may feel unfamiliar that the people you have meetings with in VR look “different”. Some of the more powerful VR tools certainly have the possibility to create pretty realistic avatars, and there is ongoing research and development that will become reality in the next few years – but most often we are limited to simplified “cartoon” characters or completely unrealistic avatars such as animals, monsters, robots or geometric shapes.

Limited emotional expression

Compared to video, our VR avatars have limited ability to express emotions with face and body. In some apps, there are menu commands for making the avatars show gestures or facial expressions. When we get better input methods (full-body tracking without complicated sensors or suits to wear on the body, eye tracking, etc.), combined with the development for realistic avatars, we will look and behave more like ourselves even in VR (or AR).

Access to VR hardware MAY limit availability

It is easier to book a meeting that only requires a computer or phone and skype or web-based meeting software, than expecting that all participants should have access to VR equipment. However, the hardware development has progressed and with the release of Oculus Quest, a standalone VR unit at no more than 400 dollars. (While a PCVR setup goes for around 2,000-2,500 dollars including a computer.) In addition, with many of the tools in this guide, there is also an opportunity to run mixed meetings where some are from a regular computer / phone and others in VR.

Bonus: How to get started with VR / AR meetings today (video)

Niclas from Immersive.ly is a guest at Dustin Expo where he talks about the present and the future of digital meetings with VR. You will hear about the difference between VR and AR, how VR meetings will be better in the future, and how you can easily get started with this effective work tool today!

Closing remarks

With this guide, we hope you have gained an insight into the possibilities and the range of real apps and tools for having meetings in VR. If you want help getting ahead with practical use, we at Immersively can guide you in the exciting and fun process of researching, testing, finding the right solution for you and implementing VR meetings in your business – just contact us!

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