The study shows that VR meetings are inferior to video meetings

The study shows that VR meetings are inferior to video meetings

Photo: Munster University

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It’s Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s big bet: Virtual reality meetings will one day surpass traditional video meetings — and maybe even real ones. What is the state of play?

Since Corona, there has been a global boom in online meetings and conferences over the Internet in everyday school and work life. Since most of these meetings take place in two dimensions, for example via Teams, Webex or Zoom, scientists at the University of Muenster are asking themselves the following research question: Does virtual reality make meetings more productive and team outcomes better with VR headsets compared to Teams, Zoom and platforms Other 2D meetings?

Real-time multisensory interaction

Virtual reality, as the researchers put it, enables real-time multisensory social interaction. VR users act and communicate with other people in real time thanks to avatars that see, hear and feel, for example through the vibrations of VR controllers or by visually conveying a sense of space. Thus, the virtual showdown you know from Zoom and Co. These are expanded upon by other sensory perceptions in virtual reality.

Marketing professor and VR researcher Thorsten Hennig-Thurau and colleagues at Muenster University wanted to see if virtual meetings in a 3D environment moved participants more emotionally, whether teams were more creative and how well they worked together. Test participants were asked to work together productively and creatively, and watch movies together.

Test 300 student (VR) meetings

The researchers randomly selected more than 300 business students from the University of Münster and divided them into three groups of about 100 participants each. The first group meets VR headsets in the social VR apps Glue, Altspace VR, and Bigscreen VR.

In an interview with MIXED, Professor Hennig Thorau spoke somewhat of a “logistical masterpiece”. Since the League only has 30 Meta Quest 2s at its disposal, the team first sends VR headsets to part of the first batch. After cleaning, the devices are then distributed to the next group of test subjects, and so on.

The second group meets in 2D via Zoom and Watch2gether. The third group uses social VR applications such as Altspace VR in 2D on a regular screen.

The study authors stress that all participants meet from home. The conditions should be as realistic as possible and include all possible difficulties, such as poor internet connection.

Virtual reality has a better sense of being, but it is less productive

The first discovery is not surprising: in virtual reality, perception The social presence of the participants is more noticeable than in two-dimensional meetings, which has a positive effect on meetings. Participants reported that in virtual reality they had a sense of being together in one place and a sense of closeness.

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Another positive factor is Navigating in virtual reality, which doesn’t exist like that in 2D meetings. Participants said this provides more fun and engagement during meetings and makes them more creative.

However, the researchers noted that looking and walking around in a 3D environment distracted the participants. The static environment of classic 2D meetings increases focus.

The researchers also examined fatigue caused by session variables. Here, VR performed the worst, and Fatigue was particularly high among participants wearing virtual reality goggles. Among the reasons given by students were the weight distribution of the VR headset and poor graphics in some cases.

At the start of the study, the Hennig-Thurau team still expected VR to outperform Zoom and Co. In all fields. But in the sum of empirically studied effects, VR meetings have not outperformed 2D meetings. Zoom and Co. more productive. 3D rooms visited on screen generate minimal social presence.

Why aren’t VR meetings working yet?

Why VR meetings don’t work yet is a topic for future research. Muenster scientists believe, among other things, that there could be negative effects due to Less realistic representation of participants as avatars. Some people also felt very isolated from the physical world in virtual reality meetings.

Researchers cannot yet provide experimental evidence of this. Researchers also still disagree about whether better technologies can improve the productivity and quality of virtual reality meetings. It’s very important to improve the functionality and design of VR meetings, Hennig-Thurau says.


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