Employees are now a permanent member of a distributed workforce. They account for the majority of daily users of Zoom, Google Meets, Join.me, or any number of other virtual meeting rooms (VMRs). While the lure of up to 10× speeds promised with the worldwide adoption of 5G will improve the quality of VMRs, it is the virtual world meetings (VWMs) where 5G will have a more significant impact. Employees and customers interact, converse, work, and collaborate just as they would in a physical location – but without the commute.
- VWMs help employees feel more connected
- Low latency promises to solve issues common to high-resource apps
- 5G will enable the combination of virtual and augmented realities
- Improvements in meeting tools are needed to divert a mental health crisis
Virtual world meetings or virtual reality workspaces connect remote workers in an online environment. Whether attendees are across town or the world, these applications create a sense of space and proximity to other employees in ways video conferencing cannot.
Improved connections with VWM
VirBELA is a virtual reality company that connects remote workers from around the world in an online environment. Represented by customizable avatars, employees and customers interact, converse, work, and collaborate just as they would in a physical location – but without the commute. Employees meeting in virtual worlds include some of the inherent drawbacks of remote work and video conferencing, once of which has been labelled “Zoom Fatigue.”
The virtual world is a configurable campus that includes offices, conference rooms, and other areas as required by the client. It also supports integrations with other apps, such as Zoom. A conference room can host a Zoom call with clients, for example.
Even the rudimentary graphics of a virtual world require far more resources and bandwidth than a phone call or video call. The virtual worlds available today must be optimised for performance and bandwidth restrictive environments. These resource requirements are why 5G will have a significant impact on this technology and the ability of small businesses to use it to improve employee and customer exchanges.
Ubiquitous 5G would allow us to build more affluent, more immersive worlds that could unlock even more productivity and help companies make the shift to remote working. 5G will give workers a real sense of mobility. They will no longer be tethered to their home broadband connections. They can go from ‘work from home’ to truly ‘work from anywhere,'” said Alex Howland, co-founder and president of VirBELA.
Speed and latency
One of the most remarkable improvements promised with 5G is lack of latency or lag. Latency is the time it takes for sent information to be received—the lag between the moment someone begins speaking and the point at which someone hears it.
In early tests conducted by Nokia, 5G latency between phones and cell towers measured at 1 to 2 milliseconds (a thousandth of a second). This ultra-low latency will enable innovators, businesses, and consumers to do things never before possible and do common tasks faster. Even everyday routines such as loading web pages or playing video games will realize faster output using 5G. In the future, 5G retail service providers (RSPs) will even be able to guarantee the specified low latency level, which can be critical in technological applications.
Augmented reality is the use of technology to superimpose information—such as text, images, or multimedia—on something viewed, such as a landscape. Think of Iron Man or the ill-fated Google Glasses. With super speeds and low latency, 5G innovators can add augmented reality to virtual reality settings to enhance the remote workers’ experiences further when attending meetings.
In regards to the impact of 5G and AR, Liam Bal, the CEO of Spintel says, “One of the most exciting applications of 5G is the opportunity to evolve from online meetings to virtual reality meetings. As a cornerstone of business continuity, this requires a solution with very low-latency and reliable video/data exchange capability, enabling our customers to drive productivity and efficiency gains.”
The architecture, engineering, and construction industries are already using augmented reality within virtual reality architectural visualizations. The intermingling of these two technologies creates richer conceptions. It allows designs to be layered over actual context or users to enter the design’s spaces, experiencing and interacting from within.
Looking to the future
In a global study conducted by Qualtrics and SAP of 2,700 employees, 75% of people say they feel more socially isolated since the pandemic outbreak. Suppose Global Workplace Analytics is correct, and up to 30% of the world’s workforce will continue working from home. In that case, businesses must do more to help employees feel connected and avert a potential mental health crisis of epic proportions.
Technologies such as virtual world meetings are not a replacement for face-to-face interactions, but they can help people feel less isolated by creating a more immersive experience. In an environment where every person is a significant contributor—often holding dual roles—small businesses are already doing a better job of keeping employees engaged. Communication tools, such as VWM, improve relations between the company, employees, and customers and benefit the business regardless of size.