Varjo and a better approach to VR-based collaboration

Given how many of us who’ve had long business careers hate conference room meetings, it’s fascinating how much effort is going on now to re-create them in virtul reality (VR). Granted, innnovation generally focuses first on emulating the known with new technology. Still, you’d think we’d recognize that the conference room meeting model has traditionally been more of a drag on productivity than a benefit. (And many of us long ago learned how to quietly work during those meetings, so they don’t become  such a time-suck. 

Varjo, which currently has the top business-focused VR solution in the market, recently showcased (with partners Phiaro Corp. and LP-Research) a far better approach to focused collaboration.  While it’s targeted at the automotive market, I think the idea has broader implications. This particular concept is a VR automobile that allows for virtual collaboration, creating a unique blend of physical and virtual attributes that can significantly speed up the automotive design process.

screen shot 2021 10 01 at 6.58.55 am Varjo

A virtual auto dashboard created by Varjo, Phiaro Corp. and LP-Research.

Let’s talk about creating generic hardware that can be blended with VR to speed development for more than just automobiles. 

A holodeck for collaboration?

What made the Star Trek Next Generation holodeck fascinating is that it used hard light (also called solid light) in a virtual reality environment to create objects you could touch and feel in an environment that would not only engage the senses but be indistinguishable from reality.  While we are making progress with hard light, another way to create the same kind of experience is with a flexible hardware platform that can supply physical touch elements with VR providing the visual. 

In Varjo’s case, you get a virtual vehicle you can drive; you can touch all of the interior interfaces and see how they work; you get a feel for the view outside the “car” and a sense of what things look like when moving. Since the hardware is open, there is no cab; you’ll feel wind that otherwise wouldn’t exist (though you can likely mitigate that with clothing and a helmet). And with this technology, you can explore different options, even have focus groups look and experience different designs — all without building even a clay model, much less a complete prototype. 

Granted, you have to create at least the panels for the interfaces and use switches where you will have physical switches or you won’t get the whole experience. But this approach could take years and millions of dollars off the cost of designing a new car. 

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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