10 Mar The Five Best VR/AR Collaboration Tools
The Five Best VR/AR Collaboration Tools
Everyone is talking about working from home and collaborating remotely recently, and there are many who have already been doing this using Video conferencing and screen sharing software such as Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts.
We think remote collaboration is a great idea and we also think that the future of remote collaboration lies in augmented and virtual reality. The extra context you get by seeing and manipulating the same tools and objects in a shared space with other people is invaluable, and the bandwidth needed is a lot less than having many video feed simultaneously.
But there are so many different products on offer, it’s hard to decide which one is best for your situation. Many options are still in development, and are not available yet to the general public. Some options are really social platforms that don’t have much in the way of collaboration tools for productivity.
So what do you really need to do collaborative meetings in VR?
- the ability to create a private world/experience
- the ability to invite anyone you want to join
- VOIP and text chat
- a whiteboard or ability to create notes everyone can see
- the ability to import media content such as images, videos, 3D models and audio
With that in mind, here are five AR and VR collaborative offerings that may fit your needs.
MeetingRoom is specifically geared toward holding virtual meetings and it supports a wide array of devices. It supports 2D clients on smartphones, Mac OS X and Windows as well as nearly all desktop VR headsets and most mobile VR headsets.
Signing up for MeetingRoom is easy, and fully automated. You can be up and running your first day in less than an hour. It has a web based interface to manage your rooms, add PDF documents you want to present, and schedule meetings and invite peopler to attend. Each attendee will need a version of the client app to connect.
Inside the app, the first thing you’ll do is set up your avatar appearance. A tutorial will guide you through this, and using the basic features of the app.
You can use a whiteboard to draw. The whiteboard supports multiple pen colors, saving your whiteboard either for yourself or for the whole team, and it has several templates to choose from such as a weekly planner or a grid.
There is also a ‘slide projector’ for presentations that displays PDF content, and a cork board for posting sticky notes. The only thing I’d consider missing is a 3D model import and viewing feature, but you may not need that ability for your meetings.
vSpatial is a virtual office space that can also be used for collaboration. While it focuses primarily on creating a personal workspace in VR, some of the tools are meant to facilitate meetings.
It is available for Oculus Rift & Rift S, HTC Vive & Vive Pro and Windows MR via Steam. Other headsets including Oculus Quest are planned. You can download it and get started right away, The vSpatial workspace is laid out in a circle around the user, and Windows from the desktop can be arranged around the user or singled out and viewed as one large panel.
There are also built in panels that don’t correspond to desktop windows for controlling settings or setting up meetings. Some panels have 3D components as well – for example there is a panel that implements a basketball game allowing you to throw hoops. Another built in app is a 3D MRI viewer.
There is also a simulated tablet you hold and interact with as a context sensitive control panel for whatever app you’re interacting with.
It is currently in beta, and free of charge at this time.
3. ALTSPACE VR
AltspaceVR is primarily a social VR platform, but it can be used for private virtual meetings. It has clients for all major VR headsets both mobile and desktop.
You can sign up and start using it immediately, and create and lay out your own room with standard built in tools available to everyone. There are tools for presenters to upload ‘slides’ ahead of time and tools to present the slides in a presentation format.
It allows users to trade website links and open them within the app, although some website features may be difficult to use from VR or even not work at all.
It’s possible to import 3D models using Unity, but this is probably not a feature the average person would be able to figure out. If you have a Unity developer in your organization though, it should be fairly simple for them to do.
Engage is an online virtual learning platform focused on education. It is a mature platform, and you can be up and running in an hour the first time you try it. It is available for all major desktop VR headsets as well as Oculus Quest and Vive Focus. While there is a client for Windows PC and Laptops there is no solution available for Mac clients or smartphone clients.
Engage is a paid service with a free tier, but to hold private meetings and do some other essential collaboration you will need to have the PRO version which will give you the ability to invite up to 50 participants to your meeting.
Engage uses ‘realistic’ avatars based on a photo you upload. You can import 3D models, images and 3D models. You can share websites and share your desktop. Because it was designed with education in mind, you can also create quizzes.
spatial.io is one of the few offerings that focuses on augmented reality as opposed to virtual reality which is not surprising as they are funded in part by Magic Leap.
Spatial.io lets you share and organize 3d models, videos, docs, images and websites with other users in augmented or virtual reality. It allows collaborators to use VR, PC or smartphone to participate, although it really shines when using a Magic Leap or Hololens.
In order to use it, you need to download a version of the app that runs on your device, and sign up for an account with them. Sign ups are not automated, so you’ll need to create an account well in advance of when you plan to have your meeting.
The list above is intentionally short but as we mentioned at the start of the article there are lots of other options. Check them out if none of the above suit your needs.
Second Life – http://secondlife.com
High Fidelity – http://highfidelity.com
Sensar – http://www.sansar.com
Amazon Sumerian – http://aws.amazon.com/sumerrian
Half and Half – http://normalve.com
Rec Room – https://recroom.com/rec-room