VR Virtual Interaction Room – Part 2

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Previously…

In the last episode of this article series, I briefly touched ground on the motivation, value proposition and possible assets for a VR interaction room. In short, the vision is to have a joint, virtual room for distributed teams with persisting content where the team can meet and work together. This will offer a sustainable, intuitive and fun collaboration tool in addition to video conferences and face-to-face meetings – actually being closer to F2F meetings, as we will see.

In today’s article, I want to extend this vision by developing an idea about what features a virtual interaction room should ideally have and provide possible usage scenarios.

Usage scenarios

Distributed internal teams

The most natural use case for a virtual interaction room is for teams who are completely distributed and currently completely rely on video conference and travelling – like worker councils, communities of practice (agile coaches, security experts etc.) or location managers. Such extremely distributed teams could use a common place to meet and work together.

AR/VR meetups

Those of you who have ever participated in a meetup at meetup.com, Xing or any other platform are aware that the RSVP (invitation confirmation) vs. no-show ratio is rather bad. Particularly for AR and VR meetups (where the hardware constraints should not really matter) this situation could improve.

Trainers

After talking to a few trainers, we found that they are very interested in using this kind of software to extend their service portfolio.

Skype calls do have limitations when it comes to agile and interactive processes. I could imagine using Virtual Interactive Rooms to prepare international workshops, when participants are spread all over the world and need to enter a creative process together. Instead of having one multi-day in-person meeting, we might be able to have more frequent and shorter meetings.
Another option could be short business workshops abroad. There was a workshop in Poland for only 2-3 hours which I probably could have done using a Virtual Interactive Room. Due to my limited time capacities and the travel that would have been involved for an in-person workshop, I did not accept the offer.
My sense about the virtual rooms is: the more international in terms of where people are based, the more useful it could be.” (Iris Bawidamann, seminargourmets.de)

I already mentioned interaction-room.de in the last episode – even Simon and his team have expressed their interest to try out their proven moderation format in VR.

Customers

For software consultant companies, it would be very helpful to improve their customer proximity by having the customer or user “in the room” any time during the project. Particularly for fast iterating teams (like our codecentric Labs Teams, who are deploying new versions multiple times a day and are typically dispersed across different countries), this would be a major benefit. But also for ideation workshops or retrospectives with mixed teams (codecentric + customer developers), VR meetings could be a charming alternative.

For one-time events / internal trainings

Occasionally, we are inviting famous speakers as experts to have a speech on their particular field of expertise. These meetings are typically held in our auditorium in the Solingen headquarter and eventually broadcasted via Zoom. In future, we could all meet in a virtual auditorium with all participants on a par.

As a service

If we realize that customers like the idea as much as we do, we could help them establish their own setup:

  • work out the required hardware
  • set up the logistics
  • train the trainers
  • support the software
  • etc.

Maybe we can even go as far as providing a “Certified Virtual Moderator” course. 😉

For recruiting

Even our recruiting team has shown interest in doing one of the usual two interviews in VR. This would allow candidates to show their strengths regardless their ethnological or religious background or even their gender or age (in some cases).

There are many more use cases we can image – but what are your ideas? Leave a comment and let us know!

Features

I worked together with our agile coaches to figure out what would be an ideal (maximum) featureset for a VR interaction room. Here is what we came up with:

Minimum Testable Prototype

I avoid the classical term “Minimum Viable Product (MVP)” because it has been misused too often if you ask me. To start with VR meetings, I think we would need the following features:

  • a VR room (3D model)
  • … that can be entered by multiple users at the same time (multiplayer)
  • avatars to represent head & hands of a participant
  • audio conversation
  • whiteboard(s) with persisting content (drawings, eventually uploaded images)
  • minimal interaction (high five, some ball game or objects to grab and throw)

With that much, we could at least meet and see how it feels / if it helps.

Maximum Desirable Featureset

On the other end of the scale, here is what I would love to see in an ideal product:

  • audio features (mute person(s), proximity gate, …)
  • persistent virtual room (pick up from where you left)
  • colors, patterns and forms of virtual material can be changed in a matter of seconds
  • the moderator can set a timer for the complete workshop (visible for all) and a timer for each exercise
  • the moderator can show instructions for an exercise (visible for all)
  • sticky notes can be clustered and moved to a separate whiteboard for the next exercise
  • persons can be assigned to groups in a matter of seconds
  • rooms can be set up individually for the intended usage scenario
  • thumb voting is possible via polling by the moderator
  • automatic meeting minutes (speech recognition triggered by 
  • the moderator can switch to “anonymous” mode so everyone has the same avatar
  • avatars can be customized to reflect the current mood of the user
  • sub-groups in workshops can send signals to the moderator that they need help
  • “ghosting” – if a virtual room is created as a digital twin of a room in the real world, people can attend meetings using Augmented Reality Headsets or even mobile devices. Since Avatars will only appear when viewed through a device, they seem similar to ghosts.
  • see who is in the room before wearing the headset (like in Discord or Teamspeak)

And once more: what are your wishes for a VR meeting system? Let me know in a comment below!

Integrations

In order to be able to persist and reuse workshop results, it would be desirable to have (some of) the following tools integrated:

  • Jira
  • ProductPlan
  • miro
  • a browser
  • Git
  • Trello

And for me, integration means: creating a VR-optimized user interface that connects with the system’s backend. A simple browser or 2D window in a 3D room is… nah!

Another interesting idea is: what could be alternative ways of programming “code” rather than using an IDE and the keyboard to enter text using intellisense as the main supportive element – OK, I am exaggerating a little bit but you get the idea. What are the underlying concepts of “writing code” and in times of pair- and mob programming, are there modern alternatives? A colleague is working on this, picking up an idea from the 80s – I am very keen on seeing his results. Stay tuned!

Continue to part 3 …

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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 leading Mixed Reality projects including the Innovation projects “modulAR” (2018) and “VR Interaction Room” (2020).

Post by Christian Prison

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