Well that’s it – I’ve seen the future. Forget your Zoom meetings, when the next pandemic hits the rush won’t be on webcams and WiFi networks, it will be on Virtual Reality (VR) headsets.
I’ve been using the HTC Vive Cosmos in the EFTM office for a while, it’s fun, a very different and immersive gaming experience. But HTC Sync is next level.
Aussie boss of HTC Thomas Dexmier invited me to a meeting about the company’s latest innovation. The invitation did not include a Zoom meeting link – thank god.
Instead, I had to download HTC Sync. Connect my Vive Cosmos and prepare.
The preparation for Meeting #1 is more arduous than most platforms, because with HTC Sync you need a cloud storage linked to your account (OneDrive), as well as an avatar – a cartoon you.
Your Avatar is created using an app on your smartphone which takes a photo of you, and builds your face – you then choose an outfit, and some defining features, and off you go.
And no, you can’t choose a body shape, so yes, I am looking at my very best in these meetings:)
Into the Meeting and it’s like anywhere else, a Room (or Meeting) ID, and a password.
Then I’m transported into a virtual place, this meeting was held in a futuristic concrete area overlooking what looked like San Francisco in the distance.
Waves crashed against the rocks around the area in a rather soothing way throughout the meeting, then I could hear Thomas “Ahh there he is, Hello Trevor” in his distinct French accent and what was mind blowing to me was that I knew where he was in this virtual space – I turned left, where the sound was coming from, and there he was.
Spatial audio is quite possibly the most critical part of this experience. Knowing who’s talking not because their face appears bigger in the brady bunch style video call – but because you can tell where they are relative to you.
When you see them, you can tell if the other participants are standing or sitting, and you can see their mouth move – although it’s just an animation to match the sound.
Cartoon avatars normally seem a bit daft, but the likeness and the familiarity of voice made this just like meeting Thomas in the real world.
Thomas was able to summon a large screen to the area, which turned day into night and allowed for a presentation of powerpoint or other files such as video.
He also created a theater-style seating arrangement – so I sat up the back row for his presentation.
When done, a small table appeared for us to sit at, and Thomas was able to share a 3D model of a top secret new car he’s not at all working on which we could both see and discuss.
As a user, I have a tablet available to me at all times, which I can use to draw, take photos, make voice notes and even share my own presentations.
It’s beta. It’s new. But HTC have been using it internally for a while, so now they want their hard core customers to give it a go.
In the future, anything’s possible. From participants via the Web, seeing a 2D view of things, to controls over meeting participant seating and engagement.
There’s a lot HTC can learn from the meeting issues people are having in the current virtual world which will feed the development of this technology long into the future.
I for one thought it was amazing. It’s not a replacement for face-to-face meetings – but for those organisations split by distance, this could be the meeting room of the future.