VR Interaction Room – Part 1

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The idea for a Virtual Interaction Room, i.e. meetings in VR (Virtual Reality), was triggered by an e-mail from our CEO and founder Rainer Vehns in July 2019. In one of his monthly mails, he wrote about sharing information in a growing, distributed setting at codecentric and there was one sentence that touched me:

Since we have grown so much and since we are distributed all over Germany, Bosnia, Serbia and the Netherlands and often work remotely, we cannot expect you any more to find all this information by yourself.

I remembered a speech that Dr. Simon Grapenthin held when I joined codecentric in 2016: it was about a concept how to use a physical room to interact with people of different disciplines (www.interaction-room.de). It basically maps to the Agile principle

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

(https://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html)

So putting these two things together I thought, for distributed teams (or even enterprises), a VR Interaction Room might be a good idea. I shared this with Rainer, talked to Simon and in fact to a lot of people since then. The more I talked about it, the more sense it was making. So I participated in an internal competition for innovation budget and almost 90 colleagues voted for my idea so I won the contest. Now that I am “funded”, I want to share my journey here in a series of blog articles. Today, in the first part, I’d like to share some of the basic concepts and plans/ideas I have so far. I would love to receive feedback as comments on this article so feel free to share whatever you think might be useful!

Value proposition

Why meet in VR? We can meet in person and we have Zoom so what is the point of VR meetings? There are so many concerns people might have, starting from the investment into hardware, discomfort in wearing them all the way down to reluctance to a change. But I believe there is value in VR meetings so I started collecting them. Here is a non-exhaustive list:

VR interaction roomthe room itself – in many organizations it is hard to find a free meeting room when needed
informationall relevant information in one place
travel costreduces travel cost (20 people F2F meeting: 10k€ every time, 20 VR headsets: 9k€ once)
sustainablesustainable (10kg for 1 year surfing the web vs. 24kg for 4.5h train trip)
motivationmotivating technology (it’s fun! :-))
immersionfull immersion (no distraction by mobile etc.), replaces „emotional check-in“ at the beginning of a meeting
social interactionsocial interaction (shake hands, high five, waving, calling, handing over virtual elements, later: mimics)
infiniteinfinite moderation space
UIintuitive, “natural” UI (unlike many PC-based tools)
spatial audioSpatial audio removes the video conference limitation of not hearing each other when talking at the same time.
audio limitationAudio limitation allows massive multiplayer moderation formats (Open Space, SAFe PI Planning, 1-2-4-all, …).
finger tapDigital world allows for direct interface of (pseudo-)haptic elements with existing platforms.
avatarShy people speak up “under cover” of their avatar or can even use a anonymous avatar (see features).
groupsForming groups in workshop does not require any time as it can be randomized.
streamlineMeeting minutes can be automated.
moderatorThe moderator can be present in multiple sub-groups at a time, e.g. for explanations (“cloning”).
sketchesRefactoring digital sketches is far easier than on a physical sketch.
resultsWhile results of a typical workshop are not used much after the workshop is over, the (digital) results of a VR workshop are highly accessible.
hardwareHardware is comparatively cheap (comparing e.g. with electronic whiteboards or huge touchscreen monitors).
remote workaddresses “the new normal”: remote work
cigaretteYou don’t have to smell the neighbour’s food, smoke etc. and you can arrange your meeting place as you wish (window open / closed or even on your terrasse).

Assets

Considering possible usage scenarios and moderation formats, we envision the following virtual “things” to be available in an ideal VR Interaction Room:

tablea nice (!) room with a table for the moderation material
meetingplain whiteboard (for drawing and sticking, save as photo, load photo as background e.g. Business model canvas)
touchscreentouchscreen monitors with browser integration
annotationannotation stickers (copyright by Interaction Room GmbH)
sticky notessticky notes with voice recognition in different sizes, colors, patterns and forms (rectangular, hexagonal)
pencilspencils in different sizes, colors, and patterns
timertimer (hourglass + wrist display)
virtual notepadvirtual notepad for private notes
woolwool (to dconnect points in the room)
carpetcarpet with country as image (where do I come from? or setup booths for location representants)
flipchartflipchart (other than on a whiteboard, results can be sticked to walls)
colored ballscolored balls
3d interactive map3D Interactive Mindmap
mini gamesmini-games (basketball, golf, table-soccer, pool billard, can knockdown…)
red alert“red alert” illumination for critical situations (e.g. Expedite, Showstopper)

 

To be continued…

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Christian is an agile evangelist and has more than 15 years experience working as a product manager for software applications in different domains. He is expert for scaled organizations and complex projects. Promoting value-add- and customer-first-attitudes, Christian accompanies our customers through the complete codecentric-Porfolio as a partnership companion – from idea-generation to maintenance of the final solution. Since 2017, he is head of the Augmented Reality Innovation Project “modulAR”.

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