Why VR providers are pinning their hopes on profiting from ‘Zoom fatigue’

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What is the latest marketing strategy for virtual reality software providers? If the Covid-19 pandemic will cause the new normal to become the normal full stop, Zoom and their ilk are not going to cut it long-term.

Meet AfterNow. The California-based startup, which describes itself grandly as ‘building the future of human computing with augmented reality and artificial intelligence’, is looking to help users against ‘Zoom fatigue.’

The company has launched its new software platform, AfterNow Prez Remote, in private beta. The platform aims to deliver ‘more meaningful and engaging remote meetings’ through AR and VR, and connects with Oculus or Microsoft headsets.

AfterNow is previously known for its work as a Microsoft mixed reality partner, creating AR presentations for Fortune 500 companies. Prez Remote supports one presenter with up to 500 participants and enables uploading of images, audio, video, and 3D objects. Those interested in participating in the beta can sign up, with priority given to teams who have existing presentations they wish to port to virtual reality.

“Over the past few years, we’ve been building high-end custom immersive presentations for the largest companies in the world, and we’ve seen how effective the technology is – we’ve seen positive outcomes when our customers have used AfterNow Prez for sales and internal meetings,” said Philippe Lewicki, co-founder of AfterNow. “This private beta of our new remote platform is the first step to bringing this technology to everyone – small and medium companies, schools and universities.”

A survey published last week by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a company which helps employees find new roles, found almost three quarters (73%) of organisations polled planned to keep working from home initiatives post-Covid-19. However, the research also found that video meetings can cause ‘additional burnout’ to workers already anxious due to the pandemic. “The phenomenon known as ‘Zoom fatigue’ is a reality,” said senior vice president Andrew Challenger.

Companies are beginning to rubber-stamp their remote working policies – which may have been convened hastily as the pandemic took hold globally – and in some cases preparing for the long haul. As reported by CNN, Google is allowing employees to work from home until at least July 2021.

This is where VR and AR companies seek to differentiate themselves. Denmark-based MeetinVR, which is focused squarely on the immersive business meeting space, launched on Product Hunt last month, achieving a silver medal for #2 product of the day on June 10. In May the company partnered up with headset manufacturer Varjo, to both bolster enterprise usability of VR and provide a better user experience for remote working.

The key in providing a better UX comes from replicating an office environment. This may be admittedly tricky if users have to don headsets, but some companies are looking elsewhere.

Spatial, an augmented reality startup, launched a free version of its platform in May enabling support for web browsers on desktop, Android and iOS. “Zoom is not a good replacement for being in the office with other people, whereas something like VR gives you that level of presence and personification,” Anand Agarawala, Spatial CEO and co-founder, told WIRED.

The virtual reality market continues to hold cautious promise. With use cases and adoption still a teething issue short-term in spite of the pandemic, addressing ‘Zoom fatigue’ could eventually be the answer.

AfterNow attempts to paint an optimistic picture in its closing remarks on its beta launch announcement. “The coronavirus pandemic can be seen as the type of black swan event that illustrates dire circumstances often lead to innovation,” the company said. “Humans are three-dimensional creatures, and with AfterNow Prez Remote, moving away from 2D flat screens and into immersive technology to better learn, communicate, convince and understand proves the future just got real.”

Is this the first indispensable use case, or just the latest marketing bluster? You be the judge.

Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

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