Why virtual and mixed reality can be the answer to overcoming Zoom fatigue in 2021

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As enterprise adoption of virtual and mixed reality continues to grow, a new generation of professional software applications and tools will emerge to overcome ‘Zoom fatigue’ and make the ongoing future of remote work a reality

Mike Leach, the world-wide solution portfolio lead for professional virtual reality, client artificial intelligence and remote workstation solutions at Lenovo, predicts a new type of ‘Zoom fatigue’ will emerge as teams need a more productive and collaborative way of interacting

In a year that marked some of the most tumultuous times any of us have seen in our lifetimes, businesses and their employees showed their extraordinary ability to adapt to change and uncertainty.

In 2020, video conferencing became the new normal, many companies allowed workers to expense office necessities while PC purchases increased significantly as employees looked to solve their immediate work from home needs. After months of remote working and countless Zoom meetings, many have grown weary of spending their work day jumping from one video conference to the next. 

While we’re hopeful to get back to some semblance of normalcy this year, some variation of remote work is likely here to stay. As a result, expect a new type of ‘Zoom fatigue’ in 2021 to emerge where teams will need a more productive and collaborative way of interacting. While most remote workers are now proficient users of Zoom, Teams or Google Meet, simply seeing co-workers, clients and partners on a 2D screen is no longer sufficient for replacing the in-person and in-office workflows that make up a day’s work.

The most dynamic brainstorm, design or training sessions are engaging and interactive, and while we have all pivoted to make do with the available tools we have during the pandemic, employees will demand new ways of working together that extend beyond video conferencing or messaging platforms.

Virtual and mixed reality are uniquely suited to deliver on this need and combat this new type of ‘Zoom fatigue’, and many organisations are already turning to professional immersive technology to enable this next level of desired collaboration and productivity among teams around the world for use cases such as training and simulation or product design.

Let’s take a deeper look at why these technologies can help combat ‘Zoom fatigue’ in 2021 and how enterprises can apply them. 

Virtual and mixed reality are just as good as real-life… and sometimes, even better

Virtual and mixed reality headsets have come a long way since the early days of the industry. The latest devices deliver improved optics and resolution, faster processing speeds, wider fields of view and increased wearability. Some enterprise-class headsets now offer such high and photorealistic resolution that it’s difficult to distinguish the virtual from the real world. 

Recent hardware innovations, along with increasingly sophisticated content, allow users to become truly immersed in their environment and engaged in the task or discussion at hand. There is no multitasking in a headset. In a virtual or mixed reality environment, you have everyone’s undivided attention and the immersive, 3D nature of the technology allows co-workers to truly interact in real-time.

Being able to physically experience a training simulation, react to and iterate on a design mock-up at life-like scale and see others’ reactions to content being displayed in a real world scenario are proving to offer a far more powerful (and efficient) way of getting things done than the more traditional workflows that many have grown accustomed to across industries.

To further improve the experience, 2020 saw a surge in the adoption of virtual collaboration platforms, such as MeetinVR, Virtualitics and Glue, that make it even easier for participants to come together in virtual reality and deliver a sense of presence that many users crave.

For example, some automotive manufacturers are implementing virtual reality during the pandemic to collaborate remotely across the globe in real-time to design their next cars. When design teams can’t physically be together in a room to review a clay model, they’re still able to maintain their design review workflows in an immersive environment, which keeps projects on track and has the potential for massive time and cost savings.

Immersive technologies are even allowing enterprise organisations to explore opportunities that are not safe or realistic to pursue in real-life. From using mixed reality and real-time 3D rendering to simulate a near collision scenario in an actual car driving on a real road in complete safety, to helping surgeons and medical students practice emergency procedures in life threatening situations, virtual and mixed reality are helping organisations create new efficiencies, better train their workforce and innovate faster.

The immersive technology ecosystem is maturing and the foundation for scalability has been set

Just as the hardware-side of industry has experienced noteworthy improvements, so too, has the software side of the ecosystem. In the past, virtual and mixed reality workflows were very disjointed and took a lot of work to assemble the necessary components needed to bring an experience to life. However, virtual reality is now baked into a lot of software applications.

Users can put on a headset and the software is already virtual reality-capable, enabling less starting and stopping. Certain applications, such as Autodesk VRED, are now an out-of-the-box solution. With more accessibility to the applications and tools that easily allow users to import 3D computer-aided design files or create and visualise content, processes can run uninterrupted, and ultimately improve productivity.

Another key element of maturation taking place is the behind-the-scenes technology needed to both create and power these sophisticated immersive experiences, as well as manage their deployment securely. With impressive processing speeds, compute power, known reliability and cutting-edge graphics technology, today’s enterprise-class workstation offerings push the limits of spatial computing forward and deliver a natural visual experience for interacting with high-resolution models and simulations.

It is these high-powered workstations that also help deliver the reduced lag and low latency feeds needed to prevent virtual reality sickness. 

Additionally, PC manufacturers such as Lenovo are also helping make immersive technology a deployable part of a company’s IT environment through mobile device management systems. These platforms allow organisations to control the introduction and ongoing management of new hardware onto their corporate network, and give them the ability to securely deploy pre-loaded content across approved devices.

This foundational layer of protection, management and ongoing support better empowers enterprises to standardise headset deployment and sets the stage for broader adoption across teams or business units.

What’s next

While immersive technology may have been considered a ‘nice to have’ just a short time ago, many enterprises are now realising that it can make multi-team collaboration across the globe possible, with particular importance during a pandemic where in-person meetings and business travel are greatly restricted for the foreseeable future.

As enterprise adoption continues to grow, a new generation of professional software applications and tools will emerge, coupled with accelerated innovations on the hardware side, in order to overcome ‘Zoom fatigue’ and make the ongoing future of remote work a reality.

From design review in manufacturing and architecture, engineering and construction, to virtual production workflows within media and entertainment, to conducting HR and health and safety training, immersive technologies are uniquely suited to empower focused and collaborative workflows that other tools cannot.

This helps enterprises maintain a level of business momentum and offers employees a more engaging and efficient way of doing their best work that wasn’t possible before.

About the author
Mike Leach is the world-wide solution portfolio lead for professional virtual reality, client artificial intelligence and remote workstation solutions at Lenovo.

Mike Leach is the world-wide solution portfolio lead for professional virtual reality, client artificial intelligence and remote workstation solutions at Lenovo

Images: Lenovo

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