The Covid-19 pandemic has brought many changes to society, some temporary and some possibly more permanent. In my last column I discussed many possible changes that could take hold around the world, from health passports to abandoning shaking hands, but in this piece I'd like to discuss the future of communication.
There is no doubt the pandemic has meant more people are teleworking and fewer people are going into offices or leaving their homes to work. This growth of telework has led to a rise in teleconferencing and the related rise in software to accommodate the teleconferencing. Zoom, despite some security issues, took off as the new teleconferencing app and has become the de facto tool used for holding online meetings and the like. No doubt other applications and other technologies will be adopted and will become the 'go-to' tools for online communication. In addition to simple communication new online interfaces will be adopted for entertainment.
One technology that I think will be adopted for entertainment and possibly communication is virtual reality (VR). VR has the advantage that it is remote, like teleconferencing or email, but you can experience the world of another person as if you were there. Perhaps some of you are well versed in VR or have even experienced it but most people are still novices in VR. When one puts on goggles and gloves (sometimes even a whole body suit) VR offers a whole sensory experience of another realm. You can be an adventurer, explorer, or pilot. Not only is what you see the new reality (like a jungle or the sky for a pilot) but you can feel the surroundings through the sensors in your gloves or other garments. Unsurprisingly VR's first application has been gaming. Adventure or battle are obviously extremely popular in gaming so it makes sense that VR would move in that direction.
Though many people thought VR would take over the gaming industry many years ago, it has not happened? Why not? Essentially the headsets, gloves and other accouterments have been too expensive for it to penetrate the massive but generally low cost gaming market. Most gamers play on their computers and start with games that are free, and only then spend money by adding-on to the things they can do in the game. For now VR has been relegated to gaming centers in malls or other such places. These are clearly far less convenient than playing at home and as many who want to enjoy gaming are pre-teens, tweens, or teens, they don't have the option of hopping in their car and driving to the mall.
Will VR take its position as a leading platform among gamers? People have been expecting it to you for more than 10 years and I think the time is fast approaching. Once the headsets become cheaper people will start owning them at home ,then there is no stopping VR. It will become the de facto gamer platform and most games will be designed for it.
When this happens I think VR will also start to be used for communication in general. Instead of teleconferencing with some software like Skype or zoom I think new software incorporating VR will emerge. With the VR headsets all participants will be able to feel like they are in the same room, a meeting or conference room, and virtual meeting will become more realistic and thus more effective. In business meetings reacting and interacting with you co-workers is essential to building good teamwork and formulating good ideas and concepts. I think the VR environment would enable this situation while eliminating the need for people to physically be in the same space. One participant could be in Asia, one in Australia, one in Europe and one the USA, with all feeling like they are in the same room. I believe this is the future of business communication, as well as entertainment.