After weeks of lockdown, countries around the world are opening up again. While the threat of the coronavirus isn’t contained yet, politicians are trying to find the difficult balance between protecting people’s lives while protecting their livelihoods too. No modern, capitalist economy can function at full speed when its workers cannot leave home.
While we’ve all seen unemployment numbers skyrocket and companies cut their revenue forecasts, it’s hard to tell what the long-term effects of the lockdown will be on the global economy. Are we looking at a 2008 scenario, a 1930s scenario, or will it turn out better than expected? No one is entirely sure.
What we do know for sure is that certain industries are affected much worse than others. Travel is the most obvious one. Airbnb laid off a quarter of its workforce, Richard Branson is trying to convince the UK government to save Virgin Atlantic with a £500 million bailout, and Delta Airlines is burning cash at a rate of $50 million a day.
It’s unlikely that travel will soon return to its usual levels either. It’ll be a long time before people will be comfortable sitting in a packed train or plane again. We may come out of this crisis with a travel and hospitality industry that might not get back to pre-coronavirus activity for many years, if ever.
Everything Goes Virtual
That is partly because people have realized that they can do many things from home. It took a global pandemic to realize it, but remote work and virtual meetings are excellent replacements for their office equivalents. While not all jobs can be done remotely, a vast majority of them can. It takes some getting used to, and that’s why we wrote a whole guide about it, but you’re likely to be more productive and feel like you have more freedom to decide your own schedule when you’re working from home.
Meetings, too, can be done remotely. The world has turned to Zoom and Microsoft Teams to make important decisions, discuss issues, or simply have a chat. There’s a learning curve, particularly when it comes to presiding over a meeting with many participants, but it’s ultimately a near-perfect replacement of a regular meeting. With the added benefit that you can join from anywhere and don’t need to commute into work for it – which is, in turn, good for the environment.
It’s remarkable how quickly the world has turned to remote work and virtual meetings. But there’s more. Classes, events, and even education are all going virtual. Companies and institutions alike realize that it’s not only technologically possible, but necessary too. You no longer need to rely on people gathering in one physical location. Indeed, you don’t want to either, because a black swan event that limits people’s ability to travel can wipe you out in one fell swoop. You want to be protected against that.
Changing How We Go Virtual
Now that we’ve collectively realized that many things can be done virtually/remotely, the next big step will come in how we go virtual. Currently, we interface with other people through laptops or desktop computers. Sometimes, that works just fine. Other times, however, you need something more immersive.
Let’s take corporate training, for example. It’s not very engaging for employees to watch an online video about first aid training. It’ll feel like a box they need to tick and something they won’t remember much of a few days later. If that same training were given in virtual reality, however, the story would be very different.
It’s by now fairly well-established that the immersive medium of virtual reality helps train employees better. They retain knowledge better, are more engaged, and find it much more fun. While not everyone might have a VR headset yet, a device such as the inexpensive, but excellent Oculus Quest has made it significantly cheaper for companies and for consumers to get one.
Additionally, VR training works great with any social distancing rules governments might still impose on their citizens. It doesn’t matter if someone is 500 miles away, you can train them in VR. No social distancing issues.
It’s a similar story for events. For the first time in its history, because of the coronavirus, HTC held its fifth annual XR industry conference (called V²EC) entirely in virtual reality. Some of the presentations were very creative because of it, as you can see below.
(video of a train crashing through a screen)
Thousands of people attended the event and listened to visionaries such as Peter Diamandis, Yves Maitre, and Alvin Graylin. No need for masks and no extra pollution caused by traveling to the event.
Another example was Laval Virtual 2020, a two-day virtual conference our co-founder Dimitri Pirnay spoke at. Over 10,000 people attended the conference, and well over 150 people tuned in to Dimitri’s talk. If you’d like to better understand how to measure the ROI of your VR trainings, check out the talk below:
This isn’t to say that VR events will entirely replace real events. There’s still nothing like traveling to a location and meeting people in person. But VR events could be a great alternative for companies who can’t afford to host an event at a specific location or for companies that want to reach many more people (not everyone is inclined to fly to Shanghai, where the V²EC would otherwise have been held).
To sum it up, the coronavirus has pressed the fast-forward button on remote work and virtual meetings. While some of us might want to go back to office work and physical meetings once the virus is contained, we now all know that it’s possible and sometimes even better to go virtual.