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Designing new products, an office building layout or even an entire office site: It can all be managed in a fraction of the time with the new virtual and augmented reality headsets. For creative professionals, the possibilities are endless. But can this technology also be applied by VDU users in an office setting?
Since more and more organisations are embracing working from home or on the go, remote conferencing is needed more often. The use of Skype or other online communication software makes it possible to communicate with several people simultaneously. However, meetings in person are still necessary since body language and facial expressions cannot be perceived over the telephone. Misunderstandings are always a risk during remote conferencing.
The use of virtual reality could have avatars (which could resemble yourself) meeting in a single digital conference room. Their advantage over telephone communication is that body language and - with the use of good cameras - even facial expressions can also be communicated. This makes communication personal even at a distance.
It could also be used, of course, for attending (in digital form) training activities and for holding job interviews.
Rearranging the workplace
Virtual reality makes it possible to work from home and also be 'at the office'. By putting on your virtual reality headset, you can step into the digital office room. This also eliminates any problems associated with an open-plan office or shared workplaces, such as unwanted noise.
Besides solving the noise problem, augmented reality can be used to rearrange an office space entirely. Because augmented reality can combine physical and digital environments, colleagues and their workplaces can be placed in a single room in real time even though this is not the case in reality. This will make the most efficient use of the available space in the office.
Since working from home is becoming commoner and the available office space can be used more efficiently, considerable savings on office space and travel expenses could be possible in the future – along with all the associated environmental advantages.
Analysing large quantities of data such as large databases containing statistics, scientific measurements or simulation findings is difficult. You can lose sight of the whole picture or have trouble maintaining a bird's-eye view (and will possibly focus only on certain statistics).
Virtual reality can help during this process. Presenting large quantities of data in visual form makes it easier to discover relationships or developments. This way, you can identify developments that you might not have noticed in an enormous mountain of data.
Reducing physical pain
One thing we should be clear about is that VDU work can be associated with adverse physical consequences resulting from too much use of the mouse, an improper sitting posture during VDU work, or simply sitting too long.
Much of this physical pain can be prevented by using the right ergonomic tools. But doing more to limit working with a mouse, keyboard or even a monitor would be even better. What about drawing up a strategic plan while taking your dog for a walk, or visualising statistics while sitting on your patio? Augmented reality can make this possible because your objects (such as a document) can be made to 'appear' before you. Meanwhile, you are still aware of your environment so that you can remain on the go.
Speech recognition (a software solution that's been in use for some time to reduce the use of the mouse) can be used to draw up documents.
Although these technologies may seem farfetched, ways of applying them are closer to implementation than you might think. The first virtual reality headsets have already been introduced to the consumer market, and test versions of augmented reality headsets (also called smart glasses) are now being distributed to various software developers. Virtual and augmented reality can definitely contribute to the improvement of work processes, whether this involves holding meetings, analysing statistics or completely designing a work space. In the future, this technology could also reduce costs.
However, whether we can or want to do without personal contact with our colleagues is the question. Occasions to be together will still be important for maintaining healthy working relationships and satisfying our need for social contact.