When the COVID-19 epidemic just began, the world neither knew its scale nor the speed with which it would spread. Many countries introduced strict quarantine measures to limit the spread of infection. Forced isolation of patients and self-isolation of many healthy people, limitation of social interactions and mass events (such as concerts, conferences, and exhibitions), also led to the restriction of many traditional methods of commerce and hampered some of the small and large businesses. Experts predict that the onset of the global economic crisis could reach levels that would exceed the Great Depression in the United States in the first half of the 20th century.

However, some companies were eager to find ways to work and opportunities even during this situation. The modern IT market offered dozens of means and tools for remote work and communication. In the current conditions, when all major events were canceled, and the need to transfer them to the online format has snowballed, remote interaction became the new normal. For instance, platforms for collaboration and communication in virtual reality is not a new development, the implementation of which some companies have actively tested for years.

In this article, we will briefly review some notable cases of using virtual reality to communicate remotely and how VR comes to the aid of medicine and business during a pandemic.

VR in use during the pandemic 

Let’s have a look at a couple of categories where virtual reality technology is used for interpersonal interactions during a pandemic.

Social platforms with which you can chat with other users in real-time while participating in mini-games.

Virtual avatars that repeat gestures and simulate facial expressions of users establish a feeling of real presence, even if the graphics are of poor quality.

One of the most popular social platforms is VRchat, visited by an average of 6,500 users every month (by the way, in March this figure increased to 9,466 people, in April – to 11,287). Users appreciate the freedom of action (parties in VRchat, for example, are not inferior to real ones) and accessibility both through virtual reality headsets and using a standard PC display.

Remote presence. Attendance at conferences, concerts, and other events

Conferences, canceled this year, are already actively moving to the VR format – such as the HTC Virtual VIVE Ecosystem 2020. By the way, at the event, the company announced the planned presentation of its platform for large-scale events. There was also a meeting of the XRBase community.

Many other organizers of significant events, such as Burning Man and Microsoft, announced intention to transfer their events to the online format.

There is also an event that has been held in VR for many years – the international “Educators in VR summit. The 2020 conference was conducted on three platforms: Altspace VR, Rumii, and Engage, given the variability of the devices used by participators. Over six days, more than 6 thousand guests joined the conference on the Altspace platform. You can read about their experience in organizing VR conferences here.

vr pandemic

Training. Lectures, masterclasses

The introduction of virtual reality in training can provide many advantages to companies that invest in the education of their employees. Once developed, a scenario for VR learning can be broadcasted the required number of times to employees from different cities and countries. For the training, you only need VR headsets that can be delivered to your home. The development of such scenarios can be quite expensive, but in many cases, lower than the price of annual educational courses for employees. Creating a universal solution for each category of employees may reduce these expenses even more.

In April 2020, Strivr raised $30 million to develop a VR learning platform, one of the early adopters of which is Walmart. This US retail giant has purchased over 17,000 virtual reality headsets for its training centers in 2018. Walmart’s experience is an excellent example of how a business modifies familiar processes by incorporating innovative technologies. The company uses virtual reality to train employees in soft skills and emergency behavior. In an interview with Fortune, Walmart CEO said that VR-testing the scenarios of staff behavior during store robberies was able to help employees coordinate and save the lives of store visitors during a real shooting in El Paso in 2019.

In this challenging period for the whole world, when there weren’t enough specialists to help fight the virus, medical institutions started to recruit retired doctors. To facilitate their return to the active service, Oxford Medical Simulation began offering its training platform for hospitals on a free basis, which allows participating in a virtual examination of patients, simulating the actual admission process.

Most recently, many have watched with interest how a San Diego teacher taught a lesson in geometry at Half-Life Alyx VR game.

The main advantage of VR technology is its immersive nature. Expressive avatars, ability to conduct a conversation in real-time mode, capabilities to load the necessary data, all these ensure a sense of real presence, creating immersion, and providing users with a new experience. In the future, this will help to modify the processes of communication and remote work.

For many spheres of human activities, specialized VR platforms exist, the functionality of which allows making the user immersion as comfortable and beneficial as possible.

Conclusion

We reviewed some of the most notable examples of introducing VR technology into various fields and familiarized ourselves with compelling, useful solutions during the current pandemic.

Organizing virtual events and workspaces often require customization. Choosing a platform is only the first step. For the effective use of VR, it is necessary to take many important points into account.

You can discover more about popular VR platforms from our website.

Nanobot Medical is pioneering the utilization of VR in medicine since 2015. We are glad to apply our knowledge in solving complex customer problems and enriching the digital medical marketing realm with new exciting solutions.

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