How VR and Augmented Reality Technologies are set to Transform Workplace Culture
Since the dawning of the computer age, the workplace has experienced periodic reformations with each successive era of new technological developments. Substantially different from the simple office environments of the past, the 21st century office has undergone a major change in technological sophistication-to the extent that the culture of the workplace is being essentially transformed.
In fact, both the design and culture of workspaces in the digital era has come to be determined by mass market technologies-primarily in the form of miniaturized hi-res devices together with high-speed wireless communications.
A common example of such technology today is that of videoconferencing, which enables a dispersed workforce to collaborate at any time: by offering this high degree of flexibility, it essentially encourages the dispersion of workforces-the effect of which is to dismantle the traditional form of the workplace.
Enter the Virtual and Augmented Realities
The two closely related technologies of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have been steadily gaining momentum in the new millennium, as they appear in popular and business culture with growing frequency.
Virtual Reality refers to a technology designed - by implication - to create a 'virtual' environment that is nevertheless close to 'reality'. In other words, VR presents users with an artificial version of reality - i.e. one that doesn't actually exist - but that is designed to be perceived as real.
The virtual environment created by VR is computer-generated; and the software is coded to present the virtual environment in three dimensions, which is intended to be explored and interacted with by the user.
Augmented Reality is different from Virtual Reality in that it is an alteration of reality, not a replacement of it. In other words, the software of AR is designed to overlay artificial details onto digitally captured reality-the most popular example of this application being the smartphone game Pokémon Go, in which the user's smartphone displays cartoon characters within the display (via the camera) of his immediate surroundings.
Ways VR and AR can Transform the Culture of the Workplace
More Sophisticated forms of Communication
Since the advent of flexible models of business and the various means of remote work they involve, many solutions (in terms of devices, apps, and services) have been developed to help facilitate remote work styles more effectively. Primarily, these solutions seek to solve the problems remote workers face due to the absence of physical presence: as although communication and collaboration can be done entirely via email, messaging apps, and videoconferencing software such as Skype-these communication methods don't come quite close enough to substituting the interpersonal aspects of a face-to-face meeting.
Remote Physical Presence (Virtually)
Virtual reality technologies have been in development for several decades now; and in the very near future, they are expected to enter the range of affordability for widespread application and adoption in the business environment. Essentially, trends in VR technologies are set to enable remote workers to have a close to real physical presence, thereby transforming the nature of meetings and collaboration-not to mention interaction with clients as well.
The essential advantage of virtual reality over videoconferencing is the quality of immersion: VR creates an experience that makes you feel as though you're there with other people. Potentially, VR has the power to significantly enhance the engagement between remote workers: an attribute that is sure to improve their wellbeing, which would otherwise be vulnerable to a deficiency in the sense of interpersonal interaction.
Virtual reality mediums of communication and interaction can thus have a substantially beneficial effect on the performance of a business-which is why some of them have already adopted this technology, in the form VR headsets by which employees can be 'transported' to the office for team interaction.
In terms of appeal, the business world has shown an essential willingness - if not eagerness - to adopt virtual reality as a means of communication and interaction-it's just a question of when the technology becomes standardized in application and pricing.
Advanced and Flexible Training Programs
The immersive aspect of VR can potentially offer a highly sophisticated tool for various kinds of training. Immersed within the 3-D environment created by VR, users are able to manipulate their virtual environment and perform activities without actually being present in their workplace.
No doubt VR technology will not come cheap when it first becomes widespread. However, it should prove to be a sound investment for businesses with training programs, as they can expect to achieve massive savings in the long-term-such as from the money saved on hiring trainers to train people in-person, as well as the costs of repairs to equipment damaged in the process.
Many major companies are already using VR for employee training, whilst an increasing number of businesses and organizations of a smaller size have begun to join the trend.
Refined Talent Acquisition
With marketplaces generally being so competitive in the globalized world, the advantages of VR and AR technologies are being exploited by more companies for the purpose of attracting the best personnel.
One example of how these technologies can help to attract talent is a feature that allows a candidate to 'virtually' follow an employee of that position, so as to give the candidate a feel for the nature of that particular job. In this way, VR and AR can more effectively entice talented prospects, giving them the edge over competitors in HR acquisitions.
Furthermore, virtual reality can also be used for conducting interviews by placing a candidate in a particular situation - e.g. one involving a challenging customer - in which the candidate can demonstrate their skills and characteristics in negotiating the situation.
For businesses who seek to recruit remote workers, the fact that Virtual Reality can allow candidates to 'visit' the workplace without even leaving their home should prove to be a very valuable tool for recruitment: By presenting the workplace in a way that is far more impressive than a video, a virtual tour can help to attract the top talent by providing candidates with an insight into the culture within the workplace, as well as the nature of the role on offer.
With Augmented Reality, on the other hand, the technology integrates with the workplaces themselves, i.e. with and within the actual buildings. Thus an AR tour of an office can guide visitors around the various locations, by way of mapping visual, textual, and aural details over a digital display.
Mixed-Reality Data Organization
While some businesses are using Virtual Reality headsets as a medium through which to manipulate their data, such as charts and images; other businesses are merging VR and AR worlds to create mixed-reality environments with touch screen interfaces, allowing them to manipulate data in a truly cutting-edge way.
By integrating AR and VR technology with data processing, businesses are preparing the way for new forms of worker collaboration that have great potential to improve concentration and efficiency.
Although the use of VR and AR technologies in the workplace is still at a preliminary stage, they are now beginning to enter mainstream markets. More importantly, technological and business trends have all but demonstrated that VR and AR are set to transform workplace culture: as the reality of a more personal and efficient form of collaboration is virtually arriving tomorrow...