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The telephone conference is an established form of decentralised communication that has been in use for many years. The extension is video conferencing, which also allows the participants to see their conversation partners. These can be performed from your own computer by using appropriate software solutions, which also include the possibility of screen sharing. However, this form of decentralised communication quickly reaches its limits with a large number of participants. High-quality video conferencing requires special equipment in appropriately equipped conference rooms. And there is one factor that is missing in both telephone and video conferencing: the interactivity of a face-to-face meeting.
The use of the virtual world for decentralised communication within project teams is becoming increasingly attractive. The prices for VR glasses are dropping continuously, and the ever increasing range of standardised applications for virtual conference rooms – or "Virtual Workspaces" – enable even smaller companies to simply and easily enter the world of virtual reality meetings. The possibility to talk and interact in the virtual workspace comes very close to a real face-to-face meeting, since the real space, including whiteboards, post-its and similar equipment, can be simulated analogously in the virtual meeting room. This means that even familiar behavioural patterns can be simulated perfectly in the virtual workspace.
A big advantage of VR meetings is the broader spectrum of things that can be discussed, displayed and decided on in such a meeting. In the VR meeting, for example, decisions can be made and interactively understood directly at the virtual object, irrespective of whether this is a component, an engine or even an entire plant. Building physical prototypes with all their iterations is one of the most complex steps within a development process, which can be extended by weeks or even months due to the construction of the prototype.
Since this applies primarily to the automotive sector and plant engineering, these two industries are currently the main users and also the driving force behind the development of corresponding VR collaboration solutions. By integrating corresponding CAD viewers into the VR conference solution, it is possible to place corresponding objects in the virtual workspace via drag-and-drop, therefore enabling flexible interaction. Corresponding processing functions enable activities such as the measuring of components, the creation of cross-sections and x-ray views, and the colouring and labelling of components, without the time-consuming construction of a physical prototype.
During the course of a development process, which consists of many small steps and a lot of coordination, many physical appointments can be replaced and made more efficient. Recording and documentation features within a virtual reality meeting solution allow further cost savings and faster decision-making processes, as not all stakeholders need to be in the same place at the same time. Another advantage that should not be neglected: Fewer business trips not only lead to enormous cost and time savings, but also make a major contribution towards climate protection, especially when it comes to avoiding long-haul travel by air.
In summary, collaboration using VR is a modern and innovative way of working that enables decentralised teams to exchange information on a shared platform or in a shared virtual workspace and to interact in a way that is very similar to real meetings.
As the technology becomes more widespread, the application scenarios will also increase continuously. Virtual workspaces can now be found not only in the automotive and mechanical engineering industries, but also in areas such as construction, art, architecture, medicine and education.