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Immersive Spaces: Expert Roundtable – XR Today


Increasingly, the earth’s population is occupying immersive and virtual spaces. Ever since the mid-20th century debut of video games, generations of gamers have immersed themselves in exciting digital spaces.

Now, in 2024, with the rise of XR and spatial computing technology, new types of end-users are leveraging digital spaces for emerging use cases outside of the gaming sector.

With new generations becoming increasingly familiar with digital spaces, thanks to the massive gaming industry firmly planting itself as one of the most popular forms of entertainment, the enterprise sector can leverage this familiarity to create engaging workplace solutions, from virtual meeting rooms to XR training solutions.

As more and more emerging generations understand the potential of online or offline digital spaces, the enterprise sector may continue to see immersive spaces within workplace environments, from the office to the frontline to marketing departments.

Joining XR Today to speak in immersive spaces are leaders representing a range of immersive solutions providers of virtual spaces.

  • Thomas Dexmier, the AVP of Enterprise Solutions EMEA, HTC VIVE
  • Kevin O’Donovan, Co-Chair VRARA Industrial Metaverse & Digital Twin Committee, VRARA
  • Kevin Joyce, Chief Executive Officer at Tiny Brains Ltd, and STYLY XR Global Partner 

How can a business best leverage immersive spaces Today? What use cases exist that introduce the value of immersive spaces for businesses?

Kevin O’Donovan

It depends on the industry you’re in. I’ll speak to what I’m familiar with within the energy industry and industrial space. VR and AR training gets people up to speed faster and saves time, effort, and money.

The second one would be sharing ideas. What I mean by that is that everything we design Today is a 3D model, and instead of getting everybody flying physically to one place and pouring over one screen or one set of printouts, you can do it remotely.

You can also use immersive spaces interoperably, where some people may be on a PC, and others may be in VR. But everyone gets a spatial perspective. I’ve seen this used in many companies where they’ll bring in people who are not necessarily facility designers. Whether on a VR interface, PC, or a 3D monitor showing a 3D rendering, they get a perspective of the size and shape of a facility, especially in VR.

When looking at a 3D render, engineers may say, “I need to walk down that corridor; that’s too narrow. I can’t walk down with a toolbox in both hands.” So they get an idea of what the place will look like and spot any issues they might see from their experience.

Additionally, there is a skills shortage in the energy industry and in many industries across the board, regardless of your country. Workers might never have been to a location before, so you can train them in VR or 3D models. It’s about speeding things up. People’s time is the most valuable commodity we have.

Kevin Joyce

Aside from the typical use cases, such as virtual meeting spaces or remote comms, the opportunities available for immersive spaces are wide-ranging. But before a business decides to invest, they need to decide what their end point goal is. Are you looking to foster a community or simply create a value-add for your existing customer base?

There are numerous platforms that allow you to create and or customize you own immersive space, essentially offering a spatial version of a Discord. These are great facilities for various tasks, but while they may be relatively simple to create, they are very time-consuming to moderate. As such, companies must be precise in their execution if they choose to follow this route. It’s lovely (and commendable) to attempt to create an all-encompassing space for your community to exist and feel free to share anything they so choose. However, without an extensive team of moderators, you’re likely to fall foul of a few pitfalls.

Keep it focused. Are you a company developing training solutions? Incorporate some video examples and brief demonstrations, and leave it at that. There’s no need to be everything to everyone all the time.

Thomas Dexmier

Collaboration is the key to success for many organizations – how can we maximize our productivity and improve communication with colleagues to ultimately benefit the business? Traditional approaches like voice and video calls are not engaging and are increasingly seen as a burden.

We strongly believe that immersive spaces have the potential to empower a workforce to collaborate efficiently and securely and, most importantly, across whatever device or platform they prefer – be it an XR headset, tablet, laptop, or smartphone. They create a sense of presence, enabling real connection and focus. And that’s especially important for remote workers, where it helps fight isolation and improves productivity.

A powerful use case is design review collaboration using digital twin visualization. At VIVE, we have recently unveiled our Polygon Streaming solution. Simply put, it allows for interactive, high-quality, detailed 3D models on any device. Polygon Streaming works seamlessly in-browser across different platforms and devices including smartphones, tablets, web browsers and XR headsets. Once, it would have required a powerful gaming PC to achieve these results, but Polygon Streaming makes it possible on everyday devices.

What challenges come from introducing immersive spaces for small and large-scale businesses?

Thomas Dexmier

Any new technology in the workforce has to be deployed the right way. People were cynical when PDAs came along, and Today, we can’t imagine working without smartphones – once people see how good the tech is, they embrace it.

It’s key to make sure that immersive spaces are accessible to everyone – regardless of the device they use. Friction loses users and engagement. Training sessions can be important but really, a business has to give people a reason to keep coming back to the tech.

There isn’t a singular approach that would work for everyone, because every company’s culture is different. And that’s one of the benefits of immersive spaces: the platform is very flexible, and it’s very easy to build something that’s engaging. When rolling out this technology, there should be a mixture of serious and fun – let people see and try out the true productivity benefits while also building in time to enjoy the experience.

I do think it’s important to lead by example and shape how your teams use technology. So the senior management needs to be engaged and hosting sessions in immersive spaces regularly.

Kevin O’Donovan

The simplest one would be you can’t just hand most people in a business Today a VR headset, a Vision Pro, or a set of augmented reality glasses and expect them to become instantly productive.

There’s a learning curve. How do I onboard people just using the technology? We’ve seen the same with Zoom and Teams. How many people use Zoom, and not necessarily all of its capabilities? Instead, they are just proficient with it and the etiquette.

You can’t just give a worker a headset. There’s that onboarding process regardless of what you’re using. So you can’t assume that everybody will use an immersive space and then find it a good experience.

Kevin Joyce

As stated above, it’s moderation that can become the biggest hurdle. The development of an immersive space is easier than ever, as is onboarding. However, if you have a large community you’re planning on migrating to an immersive space, you need to be aware of the opportunities you’re affording them. There’s likely to be one or more rotten eggs in that number, and ensuring they don’t ruin the space for others is important.

If you plan on launching an immersive space, no matter what the scale of your company, you’ll need to ensure you have a moderation team fully equipped for the task. Not just a ban hammer but the tools to deal with any unforeseen community issues that may arise. Few things are ever black-and-white, and it often takes skill to asses the truth behind disagreements in a virtual capacity.

How can a business measure ROI from an immersive space? What use cases best present a positive ROI for companies with different use cases?

Kevin Joyce

The ROI of an immersive space greatly depends on what your goal for that project is. If you want to upsell your customer base, revenue is an obvious metric. However, if you’re looking to drive engagement or create a facility for user feedback, the measurements for ROI may be a little more vague.

As ever, my recommendation would be to drill down to the core goal. Measure that against both financial and time investment on rival channels. For example, if you’re looking for engagement, you can measure return visits or direct communications per input as a direct competitor to X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, or any other platform used by your comms team regularly. The numbers will be skewed significantly at first due to the nature of building your own space as opposed to using an existing platform, however, you can expect some more balanced metrics to arrive a few months down the line.

What’s more, engagement in an immersive space is likely to have far more impact on the user than a traditional text-based app or platform. As such, it’s likely better to add additional weight to those engaging through an immersive space over other social media platforms.

Kevin O’Donovan

It does come back to the use case; you have the investment’s cost relating to developing a perfect 3D model or employing someone for six months and building one.

The ROI has to be put against what I am saving. What’s the saving for time out of the office, travel, and expenses? If I can cut down the training time so that I don’t have to wait for the factory to be built and then do six months of training, instead, a team can do three months of pre-training using 3D renders of a facility as it is being built.

Thomas Dexmier

This is a question which is asked a lot and there isn’t a simple answer. To some extent, it depends on the industry. For organizations which use a lot of visualization, immersive spaces make a lot of sense and with the ability to share high-quality 3D models, it will be easy to see the benefits – rapid iteration, and it’s quicker to get to the final product. Similarly, when presenting ideas or products to customers, the ability to take them on an immersive journey and help them to understand the product is key.

But what about the other organizations? Before the pandemic, the conventional wisdom was that being in a physical office from 9-5 every day was a great ROI. But now the world has seen that remote and hybrid working can deliver the same and often even better results.

So the real question is, what even is ROI to some? There are metrics which can be put in place around engagement and learning, or collaboration and productivity. But that doesn’t apply to every organization. We know that, ultimately, a happy and engaged workforce can be a powerful asset – and that’s very difficult to measure in any circumstance.

Will immersive spaces replace traditional remote meeting/collaboration tools or enhance them?

Kevin O’Donovan

So, there will be some unique use cases where it may be replaced, where it might be better to walk through a 3D design in VR than trying to do it on a team call.

But to be quite honest, because of some of the challenges, not everybody can do it. Not everybody has the bandwidth, for example. For me, it’s about enhancing; we’ll still use the traditional way for a long time.

Kevin Joyce

I don’t believe immersive spaces will replace traditional remote meeting platforms in the short term. There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that they can increase productivity, however, at present, you’ll still find some employees less willing to adopt the technologies than others.

In the same fashion that smartphones have become de rigueur, so too will immersive technologies in time. Companies investing in these platforms and immersive spaces at present are significantly ahead of the curve. It will take time for the reach of immersive technologies to grow and for employees to adapt to them.

However, setting the agenda early is not necessarily a bad thing! As with smartphones, having a company coordinated in immersive spaces will eventually become the norm, and having teams that are familiar with such platforms early will provide many unforeseen benefits down the road.

Thomas Dexmier

Technology is there to support humanity. We believe that immersive spaces have the potential to enhance the way we collaborate and can act as an extension of traditional physical or virtual meeting spaces. We’re also bringing technologies like AI into these platforms to help people be more productive by reducing time spent on routine, like taking minutes, so you have more time for the important things.

There’s no single solution which works for everyone, it’s different technology for different use cases. Sometimes, you need a lightning-quick chat – so you phone people. Other times, you can send an email because you’re in different time zones.

Immersive spaces will provide a hugely powerful and flexible tool which can make a real difference in workplaces. We’re already seeing a lot of positive feedback about VIVERSE for Business becoming an essential part of an organization’s suite of tools.

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