Video Vault: How Could AR Improve Team Productivity?

This is the latest in Localogy’s Video Vault series. On an ongoing basis, it examines selected conference talks and video clips, including embedded video and key takeaways. Speakers’ opinions are their own. Check out the entire series here.

One of Augmented Reality’s promises is to bring far-flung colleagues together for interpersonal interactions. And this could apply to startups and SMBs with remote teams. There’s otherwise a tradeoff between the advantages of remote work (flexibility, cost) and the effectiveness of in-person collaboration.

Spatial wants to make this less of a binary choice. Its workplace collaboration software uses AR to fill physical spaces like a conference room with digital content. This involves graphical elements that emulate productivity objects (think: post-it notes, video screens) and people, via animated avatars.

The opportunity is ripe, said Spatial’s Jacob Lowenstein at the AWE conference (video embedded below). Several macro factors have led to more people than ever before working remotely. But current methods of remote collaboration (think: Zoom) miss out on key aspects of human communication.

“Remote work is increasingly the new normal,” he said. “But good collaboration depends on this subtle magical human element that’s often lost. So the real question is how can we inject a human element back into collaboration, and build tools that make it a central part of how we work.”

The answer to this dilemma of far-flung colleagues in need of live collaboration is the $1.3 trillion travel industry. That’s great for economic stimulation (and the occasional boondoggle), but it’s not optimal for professional morale, enterprise cost-efficiency, nor the environment.

“We trade between presence and effective collaboration,” said Lowenstein. “So what ends up happening is people get on these weird aluminum tubes that hurl through the air. It’s an inefficient way to collaborate… it’s exhausting, it’s expensive and we think we can do better.”

These are the pain points that set up Spatial’s collaborative AR workspaces. Conceptually, it’s parallel to AR-based visualization we hear a lot about in industrial contexts, but purpose-built for corporate settings. That can be brainstorming sessions, training, design sprints or an agile scrum.

“Each of these meetings is fundamentally doing the same thing,” said Lowenstein, “which is getting people together, reviewing a lot of information and context-switching between a bunch of things you need to synthesize in order to go and make decisions. And then you go and do it.”

All of this sounds great but in practice, there are adoption barriers such as AR hardware like Microsoft’s Hololens. Lowenstein addresses this reality check: New virtual flavors of workplace collaboration should be additive to — rather than disruptive or substitutive of — current tools.

“There are a ton of great collaboration solutions,” he said. “Spatial plugs directly into those… if you can jump into a holographic collaboration instantly from [those], it’ll be much easier for the layperson in your organization to get rolling and they won’t be discouraged by the friction.”

For the same reasons, Spatial is platform agnostic. By operating with everything from Hololens to iPads, it intelligently doesn’t saddle its own growth. Any communication tool will fail if one side of the conversation isn’t compatible, so levels of interactivity should be accommodated in early days.

“It’s going to take time to buy headsets and roll this out in your organization,” said Lowenstein. “In the meantime, people shouldn’t be left out… this is a network-effect driven idea and if there isn’t someone else to meet with you in Spatial on the other end, that meeting ain’t going to happen.”

See the full presentation below. 

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