The Current Dilemma, Facts and Figures
Are you the CEO of a large multinational, worried about putting your employees at risk? Are you an employee, concerned for your health while travelling to work and attending meetings with clients? Are you a professor willing to ensure the study progress of your students despite the ban on all in-person classroom sessions? Are you on vacation and deeply depressed because your travel plans are cancelled and you are forced under government-imposed quarantine?
The novel Coronavirus is impacting us all, regardless of the field, business and industry we belong to. According to the latest figures, around 230,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed worldwide. Since the disease has already been accepted as a global pandemic, governments are currently encouraging, and may soon strictly demand, measures to limit personal contact and large gatherings. From minor lifestyle changes, like avoiding hugs and handshakes, to major alterations, like cancellation of events and limited travel, the economy as a whole is bearing the brunt. Meanwhile, businesses are searching for ways to continue their activities and manage the workload through work from home. While this is somewhat effective, it is not enough.
Is Virtual Reality the Solution?
Who would have thought that virtual reality would become helpful in this problem too? But it is! VR is turning out to be the go-to solution for numerous Corona-related problems. Let’s elaborate on the whys and hows.
Benefits of VR over Conventional Remote Collaboration Options
While virtual reality has been around for a long time now, its use case for multi-user collaboration was discovered in the last decade. Various industries had been turning towards VR for discussing 3D data and ideas, however, many others were still more cautious of this new technology. This is changing with the situation on hand, mainly due to the limits of conventional remote collaboration options, like video calls. These do allow you to share ideas and observe data, but only in two dimensions. VR, on the other hand, gives you the opportunity to thoroughly explore data in 3D, along with being physically present in the environment. Therefore, VR is the solution to remote multi-user collaboration!
Cancellation of Events, Trade Shows and Conferences
Events are being postponed or cancelled globally to avoid large gatherings. events including Mobile World Congress, Facebook’s F8 developer conference, and the Game Developers Conference have all been canceled due to Coronavirus. Social distancing is being considered the solution to flattening the curve and ensuring thereby, that the medical system is able to cater to emergencies and those with critical cases of the virus. This need of the hour is negatively impacting numerous businesses that depend on trade shows and exhibitions for their sales, marketing and PR activities. Even though governments are trying to cover the economic losses born by businesses, other measures need to be sought to keep the economy running.
VR offers the perfect solution in this case as it allows thousands of participants to tune in remotely to an event, by putting on a VR headset or even through a live stream. Thus, making an event virtual can not only prevent the risk of gathering large numbers in a confined space, but also allow people who may have been infected and quarantined as a result, to participate in the event. In addition, VR naturally increases participation as numerous people who would be unable to join an event on account of travel issues or other reasons, can also attend virtually.
Some companies are resorting to online events, like Nvidia holding its GPU technology conference online only, from 22nd March to the 26th. However, without a spatial sense of presence, such an online session can not be as immersive and explanatory as an in-person conference. VR is, therefore, the better option.
A recent example of companies actually using this alternative to personal events is HTC. HTC usually holds its Vive Ecosystem Conference (VEC) in Shenzhen, China. In response to the corona threat this year, the company decided to carry out the first fully-virtual industry conference. It is even being promoted as “Virtual Vive Ecosystem Conference (V2EC)” and we are very excited to become a part of it!
Global Flight Cancellations and Limited Travel
As the pandemic unfolds in an increasing number of countries, airlines are seizing flight operations to countries where the outbreak is greater, e.g. China and Italy. Last week, the USA decided to ban all travel to and from Europe, affecting 26 European countries. The beginning of this week revealed that numerous European governments are also restricting travel and closing borders to contain the virus. This situation can only be expected to get worse as the peak of the pandemic is apparently yet to come. Therefore, business trips will be severely restricted leading to a lack of cooperation among virtual teams, and causing huge problems for companies with clients in different regions.
Virtual reality provides a means for businesses to conduct real-time meetings, wherein they can share ideas, discuss 3D prototypes, and carry out virtual trips. Thus, along with the benefit of accessing much more visual information than simple 2D images, VR provides the advantage of immersion in the simulation to completely understand how a prototype would feel and look. This is of course, accompanied by decreased cost and risk of travel during current times.
VR can also be used to virtually travel to destinations for fun in case you had to cancel your personal trips. Due to the popularity and praise for its current applications in the tourism industry, VR is already perceived to change the future of tourism so why not try it during this time of social isolation and judge how effective and enjoyable it is for yourself?
Ban on Personal Teaching and Classroom Sessions
Educational institutes gather a large majority of students and teachers on a daily basis, hence it made sense to prohibit all educational in-person sessions. Online lectures are being used as a substitute but these are not as effective in terms of explaining content properly and grasping concepts quickly.
The virtual classroom has already been revolutionizing education due to various reasons, e.g. it allows innovative content to be learned jointly across boundaries while also maintaining semi-anonymity, if students prefer that. The aspect of greater immersion leads to higher retention and of course virtual learning is suited to the student’s abilities. Amidst the threat of COVID-19, VR is the perfect alternative to personal teaching sessions. Who knows it might even become the preferred method for both students and teachers once the virus situation has subsided?
VR Therapy for Corona Patients
Virtual reality already has numerous use cases in the healthcare sector and medical professionals are using this technology during this medical crisis as well. VR is being used to provide therapy to patients afflicted with the virus.
XRHealth has recently announced its collaboration with Israel’s Sheba Medical Center to offer VR telehealth services to patients exposed to coronavirus. These patients, who are quarantined at the hospital, will be given access to VR headsets equipped with the company’s XR technology solutions and data analysis, as well as apps that they can use to take virtual tours of various destinations. Along with being an effective means to closely monitor quarantined patients with limited physical interaction, VR can also help deal with the depression patients suffer from while being isolated. Similarly, VR can also be used by self-quarantined patients at home for entertainment purposes.
VR depicting the Experience under Coronavirus
This global pandemic is still a cause of debate among people, wherein some people still do not believe in the severity of it. This can be harmful as these people might become the largest cause of spreading the virus by ignoring the recommended policy of social distancing. One such case, “Patient 31” caused the upheaval currently being experienced in South Korea. Therefore, it is crucial to explain the seriousness of the virus and its effects to people.
VR is being used for this purpose too. Nikk Mitchell, founder and CEO of FXG, created a video in webVR, that gives you a great idea of how the Coronavirus has disrupted life in China. It also shows how VR can be used to stay connected with family, friends, and the rest of the world during these times. Thus, VR brings new ways to perform routine activities and keeps your mind off the depression from social isolation.
Though VR entertainment has been around since years, it is one of the best ways to stay occupied while we focus on social-distancing. VR entertainment is becoming the norm for airlines as well so it can definitely serve the purpose of keeping people occupied in their homes, and that too much better than simple 2D TV shows and videos.
Moreover, from travel, to learning, and even exercising, VR is providing innovative ways to carry out our everyday activities while also being isolated. You can use the VirZoom Exercise bike to substitute for your gyming sessions and visit 3D Virtual Stores to experience virtual reality social shopping in 3D.
COVID-19 is wreaking havoc across the globe! As we dive deeper into the pandemic, we can only expect the situation to get worse. The sole means to prevent a high number of casualties and ensure that all critical cases receive the required medical attention, is social distancing! We need to abide by the rules being set by our governments and play our part in saving lives worldwide. However, this solution to flattening the curve can potentially lead to a global economic recession and businesses are trying to continue their activities regardless of the upheaval. VR is the solution in these isolated times as this technology, despite being around for decades, is now serving its true purpose: making it fun for us all to interact, collaborate, share ideas and carry out our daily routine in a much safer virtual world!
In case you want to collaborate virtually in a safe environment and share ideas among teams and with clients, you can try STAGE for free now! Stay safe, healthy and productive!