Imagine going to work, talking to your co-workers, and collaborating in an office space without actually leaving your dining room table.
“It literally just feels like you're in another world,” said Renji Bijoy, the founder of Immersed.
Bijoy and the rest of the team at Immersed are creating an office away from the office, so to speak.
“Say you have your laptop and your headset, you can go to your couch, your porch, on the road, and you'll have all the screens around you,” he explained.
It’s more than just a room. Inside this headset, you can customize your workspace -- coffee shop, conference room, you name it.
“This is called the space lounge. It’s just a really cool space lounge environment,” Gavin Menichini, another employee at Immersed, demonstrated.
And you have the flexibility to have multiple screens with the flick of a hand.
“Kind of like Jedi Star Wars with the force, I can click and grab these monitors and I can move them around left and right. I can pinch and expand them to make them bigger, make them smaller,” Menichini said.
So why VR for work? Beyond remote capabilities, Bijoy said it boils down to productivity and focus.
“We have sort of this, I guess, short attention span world that now all of us and our kids now live in, and we feel like Immersed is going to retrain the human brain so that we can get people to be more focused,” he said. “I feel like we don't have to look at technology as this negative connotation or this thing that's kind of screwing up and frying our brains. It’s something that can enhance humans.”
The virtual reality industry is gaining traction. Tech companies like Facebook are investing in research.
“Back in 2012 through 2014, there was a lot of hype around VR, but then there were a lot of technological obstacles. People were getting headaches and things like that, and a lot of people rushing that space,” Bijoy said.
The hardware, Bijoy said, is catching up.
“This is like in the next second-ish years as far as glasses being a thing. You can put them on to teleport to an office.”
In a way, the pandemic accelerated the possibilities.
“When the pandemic hit, more people were just exploring virtual office-type solutions,” Bijoy said.
For leaders like Aaron Miri, two-dimensional communication may not be enough.
“Tech, although it's a great augmenter, is not a replacement for that one to one communication, but VR can negate that and really eliminate that 2D screen in front of you because you really do feel like someone is sitting across from you talking to you,” said Aaron Miri, Chief Information Officer at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School.
He says VR is critical moving forward.
“These tools are critical for us because it allow us to experiment and talk to each other and give a different level of dynamic engagement just like we’re doing here, as opposed to sitting at home behind a two-dimensional screen,” he said.
Beyond productivity, Immersed has a way for you to collaborate with coworkers in real-time, too.
“If I wanted to join Caleb, all I have to do is hover over his name, and then I can press the ‘join room’ button if Caleb is in an open collaboration room. Simple as that. It's going to spawn me into his room with Caleb,” Menichini explained.
Bijoy said they do face some setbacks.
“There are a lot of barriers to entry for even just getting a user to get a headset, or just turning on the app and getting into the app together with their team,” he said.
However, he believes there are endless opportunities for VR as an added option for businesses to collaborate and have location flexibility.
“We 100% anticipate there being a hybrid approach moving forward. We don’t think things will snap back just like to the way it was before COVID, where employers don't allow people to work from home. I think this past year and a half has enabled people to see the freedom that's possible through working from home,” Bijoy said.