Video-conferencing software like Zoom has exploded as a result of the Covid-19 shutdown. What is less known is that interest in avatar-based virtual worlds and business-specific adaptations of concepts like Second Life, a well-known virtual world which peaked in mainstream popularity 15 years ago, is spiking as well.
While video-based software like Zoom will likely continue to be the preferred method for most remote business meetings during the shutdown, it is possible to wonder whether virtual worlds may prove uniquely useful now as well.
In VirBELA, users create an avatar and navigate a video game-like environment to attend meetings, collaborate around boardroom tables, use media surfaces to display documents or websites, and interact in ways that may capture social cues (like personal space) from the real world.
The most important benefit of a virtual world, then, may be that it replicates many of the behaviors you might expect to see in the real world.
Even before Covid-19 pressed the brakes on our economy, forcing employees around the world to shelter at home, parts of the business world were already moving in the direction of remote collaboration and long-distance communication.
While I don’t expect virtual worlds to overtake the use of video conferencing for the vast majority of today’s business meetings, it is worth noting the key attributes that make these environments unique.