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Global Flipchart


December 2016
| Issue #6

3D Immersive: Not your mama’s old 2D online meeting technology

By Robert L. Moir, CPF, IAF Assessor

Do you cringe and run for the door when you are asked to participate in another mind-numbing online meeting, where the online tool either doesn’t allow for the work to be done easily, or the people running the session are online meeting incompetent? Not to worry, your avatar is ready and waiting to bring your online meetings to life… And it’s not Second Life!

Thanks to the brilliant people who pioneered online games, we in business are now able to benefit from the 3D immersive technology that engages millions of gamers around the world, in realistic spaces designed to make you and your avatar feel at home in your online meeting space.

Until recently, most virtual meeting technologies lacked the key elements that create the engagement and presence that allow the deep learning we all wish for when meeting online. Alternatives to typical online solutions for conducting distributed collaborative work consisted of exorbitantly expensive, minimally effective and under-used video conferencing suites, or software that utilizes “talking heads” from laptop cameras.

At last, the world of 3-D immersive virtual technology with avatars developed for business offers huge advantages for organizations looking for more effective ways to bring people together online to collaborate while reducing the cost. And people actually enjoy it! Engagement increases and results reflect the increased participation and focus.

Simply described, full-blown 3D immersive puts every participant and trainer or facilitator in a virtual room as an avatar that looks, acts and speaks like the person.

In 3D immersive sessions, people very quickly adopt the same social norms they use when interacting face-to-face. To make 3D immersive even more real, the technology creates positional audio for each person, meaning we hear as we hear when with other people. We can observe the "body language" of other avatars. We can choose our own speaking intensity and posture (from very relaxed to formal), facial expressions, gestures, and movements. Most people initially experiencing 3D immersive get past the early feeling of "driving" their avatar to "being" their avatar in the first hour or sooner. When that happens, engagement and participation goes through the roof!

With 90% of human communication being non-verbal, the “physical” capabilities of avatars represent a huge leap in online collaboration and training. 3D immersive technology provides the platform for real, virtual face-to-face interaction we don't experience anywhere else except for being in the same room.

But as in any face-to-face meeting or training, the meeting is only as good as the meeting design and subsequent implementation. So a major learning is that there is no "silver bullet," single online tool that gives us the same flexibility we have when designing face-to-face sessions. The challenge is to choose the right tool or combination of tools for the collaborative work at hand. In 3D immersive environments, the facilitator/trainer can utilize actual breakout rooms, face-to-face processes such as stickies, Nominal Group Technique, and hundreds of other session methods/processes, many of which have already been adapted for online application.

You may ask, "Is there enough value in 3D immersive collaboration for me to consider replacing the 2D technology my IT department has already approved? " Our clients who have done complex, detailed strategic planning in our 3D immersive space say unequivocally "Yes." They were able to contribute individually and in small teams, discuss, disagree, and come to consensus eyeball to virtual eyeball, in two-day sessions where everyone stayed engaged and actively contributed to the plan.

To hold your next important meeting or project in 3D immersive space, contact Bob Moir or Janet Danforth at Facilitator4hire. The name of the technology Bob uses is Protosphere, available from Proton Media. Bob is happy to set up a demonstration session for anyone who is interested.