Gaming and social experiences are great uses for virtual reality. However, enterprise VR is also making huge strides to solve big problems in the world of work. Companies that do things like manufacturing, retail management, advertising, and just about anything else have a lot to gain from enterprise VR. But, they don’t always know where to start.
Everyone who runs a business making enterprise VR solutions has to have a decent pitch on why companies should sign on, but there are also some organizations that make onboarding their companies part of the experience.
Finding Direction With Endava
Endava is a tech services provider that helps companies use new technologies to solve problems, increase efficiency, and grow their business models. They aren’t exclusively interested in emerging technologies like extended reality and the metaverse, but they’re seeing a lot of client interest in those fields. And that’s a good thing.
“Don’t wait until the need or the use case is defined because by then you’re just chasing everyone else,” said Scott Harkey, the Executive Vice President of Financial Services and Payments at Endava.
Where to Begin
This often means that companies that do actively want to develop an enterprise VR strategy can be stuck in the awkward position of feeling that they should do something without knowing where to begin. That’s the point where working with a consultancy can help.
“Figuring out where to start is often one of the biggest parts of it,” said Harkey. “That, of course, is different for each organization. But, generally, thinking from a consumer experience perspective helps you focus on what is the problem that you’re actually trying to solve.”
Working with the entire company can help to keep the enterprise VR project on track. Uncertain executives might want to put everything in the hands of their builders, but that can lead to an over-developed and underperforming solution. Putting too much on the executives instead of the builders might hobble the project before it’s begun.
“Individual engineers often get really excited about new tech,” said Harkey. “As you get more senior in the organization, I think they tend to have a more pragmatic view of the technology… they tend to be more conservative with new technologies and want something that is more proven.”
Before proving something, it needs to work. From there, the learning can really begin.
“First it needs to work… It needs to solve the problem. If it’s cool, that’s great. But, does it work?” explained Harkey. “There’s definitely a desire to be experimenting with new tech.”
Determining whether or not an emerging technology project is successful is a challenging task in enterprise VR. Some in the XR space have even suggested new metrics for XR experiences on the grounds that the way that we track engagement with more conventional media doesn’t do XR justice.
“Definitely experiment. Definitely play with things. There’s no better way to understand how this can impact your business than to play with it,” said Harkey. “But, set the expectations upfront if that’s what you’re doing… If you’re misaligned on the objectives, that’s when you can have a failed experience.”
Those expectations might be things like “engagement” – how many people are accessing the experience, and how long are they using it? However, it can be just as important to understand what they’re doing while they’re in the enterprise VR experience. According to Harkey, some companies use “investigation” as their only metric.
“If I’m doing anything in VR right now and I’m anyone other than Meta, and this is probably true for them too, I don’t really know what I’m doing in VR and I want to see what people engage with,” said Harkey. Harkey added that sometimes experimenting leads to an idea for a more practical or goal-driven solution. “A lot of the time, you’ll see those use cases start to emerge.”
Putting on the Headset With Morpheus
Morpheus is an enterprise VR engagement platform. It started off as a VR events coordinator using AltspaceVR, but has developed into a full-service solution provider with its own virtual world platform and headset distribution arm. And headset distribution is still a big deal.
“We looked at the market and were like, ‘no one has headsets’ so that’s one – that’s the first thing we need to tackle,” CEO Jeffrey Chernick told me during an in-world interview. “We actually send teams headsets and teach them how to use VR. We do one-on-one onboarding with everyone on a team.”
Upon entering the world, before the interview started, COO Jennifer Regan led a “grounding exercise,” acclimating to being in VR. “We are really focused on the least common denominator, which is the first-time user but we also want to make sure that we’re creating enriching spaces for advanced users,” said Regan.
Chernick believes that in the next couple of years, as headset adoption picks up, things like hardware distribution will shrink as a part of their business model. Morpheus also works on desktop and mobile devices, and they’re planning on expanding the availability of their enterprise VR application, which is currently only in Quest’s App Lab.
“A huge piece for a lot of corporate HR teams is the employee benefit of giving a headset,” commented Regan. “A Quest 2 gives them access to Supernatural, other fitness apps – there’s other programming that they can at least conceive of using.”
Exploring a Morpheus World
Users can bring their own enterprise VR content into Morpheus, or work with the team to create bespoke worlds. However, the available worlds in Morpheus have a lot to offer already. Some of the settings speak to their earlier days as a “one-off experience” platform but different areas can be built onto one another via a portal system to create vast multi-venue virtual worlds.
“Space is the most valuable tool and we try to maximize its power,” explained president Mikhail Krymov. Krymov is the “chief architect” behind the Morpheus worlds which include sunny knolls, rock gardens, firefly caves, lounges, lecture halls, and ethereal forests.
Interactions and assets come alive in the worlds as well. A hands-in interaction triggers fireworks. “Unofficially the best drinks in VR” slosh in the cup and clink during a toast. A minigame initiates between two avatars wearing boxing gloves. Speakers have their choice between holding a microphone or using a floating microphone that follows them as they move.
“Once you’re in the world, what do you do that’s not just a novelty?” asked Chernick. “No one’s coming in here for a four-person board meeting that they could just do on Zoom.”
These interactions aren’t just fun – they’re exercises in embodiment that help users get comfortable with the feeling of being in virtual spaces. As Regan pointed out, there’s still an “intimidation factor for newer users.” It’s easy to imagine familiar objects, whether fun or practical, helping users feel at home.
Enterprise VR Beyond “The Officeverse”
Enterprise VR solutions that do little more than add depth to a video call have been dubbed “the officeverse.” While those kinds of experiences are a natural way for enterprise companies to dip their toes into the immersive waters, they’re by no means the end of what companies are exploring or what builders are creating.