How art helps us to get Virtual Reality into our daily life (and why this is good news)

For most of us Virtual Reality (VR) is still nothing more than a buzzword, a trend maybe in the gaming scene and - depending on the industry we are working in - we might have the luck to already discover some stunning applications used along the value chain of e.g. in manufacturing or engineering.

Still, the great break-through is to come. VR stand-alone headsets are available for about 2 years and meanwhile cost not even 50% of the price of the latest wanna-have-smartphone. You do neither need an additional laptop or PC nor any know-how other than finding the power button and follow instructions to connect to your Wi-Fi. In fact, it is as easy as using a smartphone. Nonetheless, it is not a common tool by now.

Since the COVID19 lock-down and related travel restrictions, the use-cases around VR get discussed more publicly which gives a nice push to the topic. As what we don't know about we don't consider valuable. But step-by-step the broader visibility in common media decreases the prejudice of VR being "just another gimmick to spend time with."

As we had to adapt to remote working and extensive video-conferencing in just a few weeks, the usage of such tools has now become part of the daily routine for many of us. This said, we also see the limits of it, sitting in front of a computer, staring at the cam, trying to follow a team conversation or brain storming without getting distracted by the next text message we silently answer on the side. Continuous engagement is key to any valuable form of collaboration and it is even harder to keep engagement level high in an online-meeting.

Don't get me wrong - a lot can be done online! By using breakout sessions, shared whiteboards and a solid moderation with breaks & polls, online workshops/classes/conferences  are a huge step forward to connect international teams, families and communities. But when it comes to the next step, using VR  e.g. for collaborative meetings there is still huge hesitation and often it is not even considered.

That said, I am certain it just needs a few visionary first movers in a team and a just-do-it approach to get things running.

To me, a perfect example of  "just doing it"  is the Digital Content initiative of the theatre "Staatstheater Augsburg" (Link: Staatstheater Augsburg Website - german only). With the Corona shutdown, the audience was gone. But VR stand-alone headsets were available - and so the ensemble started to create distinct VR content using 360 technology. Regional customers - like the classic theatre audience - can now rent a VR head-set with the selected play installed and get the artists into their homes. Or gardens. Or wherever they want to enjoy some culture.

Photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash
From the "future-of-VR" perspective this is amazing as people who would have never thought about using a VR headset get not only their dose of art (important on its own!) but get also helped along to experience VR the very first time.  They get to know how easy it is to use the hardware. And once in the play, the whole perspective shifts, the scene is all around and one merges into it. The way the ensemble acts, even creates sort of immersion with little distraction from the environment - keeping engagement. 

How easily could the spark spread now? Take that experience to their private life e.g. for education - or take it to your business.

Finally, the next first mover might be there, to push it into the business context, using VR for collaboration. Immersive VR with interacting content - and interacting users - creates higher engagement levels, less distraction and a way more active experience than classic online tools.

May I wish for something? VR-Hardware and -software companies - could you please consider to sponsor your product to artists around the world to enable them to use this phantastic medium to get their art to the people - and give us more and more VR convinced individuals where we could just go for it?

(I'll find you the artists, promised! Feel free to contact me

And to be sure: Neither usual online-meetings nor VR-meetings are capable to replace real-life meetings and workshops. Non-verbal communication and social interaction - also during coffee-break, lunch-chat and business diner - are essentials especially to build trust and the main sets of joint objectives. Any alliance should aim to hold real-life events/workshops regularly e.g. 2 times a year for strategy reviews.

But once an alliance is running, regular meetings especially in international context, which often are held online anyway, will benefit from setups in VR e.g. for brainstorming sessions or 3D reviews of models. Ideally the VR Meeting application provides a combination of full-VR experience and classic online meeting.

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