Once you've experienced it, you'll never go back
Modern virtual reality (VR) is finally good. All the problems that made the VR of the 90s and 2000s awful have essentially been solved. It’s not perfect, but VR is finally ready for mainstream use. So what does a typical person actually want to do with VR?
Apart from the entertainment options, which are numerous, there are actually some pretty cool professional uses for VR as well. Virtual offices, where you have a private space with a traditional desktop only in VR, means you can take your personal workspace anywhere.
It also means that you can now share a virtual space with colleagues and collaborate. A much more immersive and natural way to work or meet with people who may be anywhere else in the world. This is much more than just a Skype conference call. Once you’ve experienced the sense of presence that a good VR meeting package provides, it’s hard to go back to 2D faces on a screen.
Which is why we went on the hunt for the most promising apps to hold meetings in virtual reality.
What We’re Looking For
For some context, there are some features that make a VR meeting app more appealing than others. We really like it when users who don’t have access to VR hardware can still join in. In fact, this is crucial. Usually this takes the form of smartphone or tablet apps, with the odd desktop client thrown in the mix.
We also prefer applications that are not locked to a single VR platform or headset. VR is a technology that is still in the infancy of mainstream adoption, so any meeting solution has to be as inclusive as possible.
Apart from that, these services have their own niches and strengths, which means that different projects will feel more at home with different solutions.
Meetingroom.io (Free, Up To 8 People)
MeetingRoom is a little basic in the looks department, but is specifically focused on providing a collaborative space for work. This makes it one of the best VR productivity tools on this list. The company sells itself as providing “space as a service” and offers possibly the widest support for various platforms.
This includes Android, iOS, OSX, WIndows, Vive & Focus, Rift & Go, Windows Mixed Reality and more. This is the one VR meeting solution that’s most likely to exclude none of your participants.
The meeting rooms themselves come with various project management, sharing and presentation tools. On the free tier you are limited to a single room, with up to eight people. There’s also an expiry timer, whereas paid packages offer persistent rooms.
Rumii (Free, Up To 5 People)
Rumii is a seriously impressive service, which is currently conspicuously absent from the iOS App Store. You will however find it on PC, Oculus Go, Android and Mac.
So it’s actually not that bad, since the iOS users you work with are likely to have one of the other platforms. The good news is that Rumii lists iOS as “coming soon” on their site, so perhaps by the time you read this, this issue will be solved.
At the time of writing, the developer has released Rumii 2.0, which really steps up the game visually and brings advanced features to the table. Free for up to five users and with 3D object interaction, it’s clear that this virtual reality meeting app is going places.
You can have private rooms or be part of a public gathering and HD video streaming is now also a part of the virtual space. Rumii is definitely one of the options you must try before settling on your preferred solution.
vSpatial (Early Access/Pricing TBA)
vSpatial is one of the most visually impressive apps to hold meetings in virtual reality that we’ve seen. It’s been built from the ground up as a way for teams to collaborate together in a virtual space. You can also use it as your own personal VR workspace, since you can conjure virtual displays and bring almost any Windows 10 application in your VR workroom.
Right now vSpatial needs a Windows computer as well as one of the mainstream tethered VR headsets. However, the company is working on bringing the app to standalone VR headsets such as the Oculus GO and Quest.
Luckily, those without access to the right VR gear are not left out in the cold. You can also use the 2D desktop app to join in on the conversation. Although some of the most advanced VR-specific functions are obviously not going to work.
It has expressive avatars and very attractive VR office spaces. The Windows 10 app integration is especially cool. Even without the VR meeting aspect of vSpatial.
We very nearly lost AltSpaceVR back in 2017 due to financial troubles, but at the last moment Microsoft swooped in and bought the company. Now, with effectively infinite dollars, they remain one of the most innovative providers of VR meeting spaces in the industry.
AltSpace is compatible with a wide array of platforms. The Vive, Oculus headsets and Gear VR are a given, but it also works in 2D mode in Windows and with the Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Sadly, the Android app has been discontinued and iOS was never supported. However, if all your participants have access to at least a Windows machine, it’s a great tool.
The colorful world and artstyle is friendly and accessible. Despite not specifically being designed for business use, event hosts have the tools needed to do great presentations.
It’s not suited for work collaboration, but as a way for a group of people to meet and talk, it’s one of the most comfortable and intuitive solutions out there.
While most meetings could probably have been an email, these virtual reality meeting applications are perfect for those times you really need to have real time to wrestle with the tough problems as a group.
With remote work and gig-economy jobs on the rise, there’s no reason to abandon the key advantages of face-to-face meetings just because you’re miles away. Just slip on those goggles or boot up that app and you’ll be hanging out around the VR water cooler in no time.