Snobal Weekly

Lessons in Metaverse standards and why we’ve been here before (sort of)

It’s no surprise that the metaverse would look to have its own standards but the biggest thing we can learn from the history of internet standards? We’ve been here before.

Standards are like technical specifications or criteria and have been around for over 7000yrs since the time of ancient Egypt and Babylon reports Standards Australia.

But let’s take the internet.

Imagine if there were no fixed rules on how web content should be created or how browsers should present that information to people.

Image: NextWeb, 2015

Imagine if web developers had to make a website for every single browser. 

Or that browsers, to separate themselves from the competition, added features and functionality which made serving up the content a constant nightmare for web developers.

Sounds far-fetched right? 

Not really.

This is how the internet worked up to the development of web standards in the 1990s as outlined in this article in Smashing Magazine from 2019.

“When standards were introduced, browser makers were encouraged to adhere to a standardized way of doing things — resulting in cross-compatibility becoming easier for content makers and there no longer being the need to build multiple versions of the same website.”

Back to the future?

Right now we are in what we will say are pre-metaverse standards time.

Where VR/AR content has to be developed for specific devices, where backward compatibility is a pain, and where cross-compatibility and interoperability are a goal on the horizon.

The newly formed Metaverse Standards Forum spearheaded by The Khronos Group with members such as Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia EpicGames, Adobe, and countless other technology companies pioneers in the development of VR/AR (including we aim Snobal 🙂 ) are seeking to address this.

Through prototyping, hackathons, and the development of open-source tools the aim is to make it easier for developers to build across platforms as well as help develop shared terminology thereby building an open and inclusive experience for all.

Shared language

Shared language and terminology is slightly ironic given that it appears that the word ‘metaverse’ is itself causing confusion about what the term means.

Once again we will need to go back to the 1990s and the internet to realize we have been here before.

In the 1990s people often did not know how to explain what the internet was like this 2015 NextWeb article outlines.

Remember the term “surfing the internet”? (ahem…you will if you are a certain vintage). This was how Scholastic a US publishing and media company, used the term to help kids understand the internet (image below).

And TIME magazine looked to another analogy – the information highway.

Image: NextWeb, 2015

Still, others used terms like ‘world wide web’ or ‘the web’.

It can be easy to forget now that the internet was not pervasive when it was launched to the public in 1991. It took time for shared understanding, language, and standards to develop.

In fact it was not until October 24, 1995, that the Federal Networking Council (FNC), a U.S.organization, unanimously agreed on a definition for the ‘Internet’:

“Internet” refers to the global information system that — (i) is logically linked together by a globally unique address space based on the Internet Protocol (IP) or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons; (ii) is able to support communications using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons, and/or other IP-compatible protocols; and (iii) provides, uses or makes accessible, either publicly or privately, high level services layered on the communications and related infrastructure described herein.


And it was this shared terminology and standards that really enabled the internet to take off. That and the decrease in the price of computers enabling more consumers to purchase one.

Metaverse or metaverse? Maybe it depends on if you think its important

Also, have you noticed the capital ‘I’ in the definition above?

Because even whether the word ‘internet’ was capitalized (Internet) or non-capitalized (internet) was up for debate in the 1990s / early 2000s as this Wired article outlines and it was also construed as a ‘political choice’.

(de)capitalization is a political choice. Capitalizing the word Internet connotes that the technology is important, something few people would dispute. But rote capitalization also treats the complex, dynamic internet like a static object, contributing “to the types of simplistic dialogues about our technological future that are most problematic…


So there you have it. Metaverse standards are in some sense a logical next step. Our task now is to learn from the lessons of the past.

This post originally appeared on Snobal Weekly. Signup to receive your copy delivered directly to your inbox each week.

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Infinity Room Snobal VR
Snobal Weekly

New Release To Snobal Brings Enhanced Collaboration

The latest release to Snobal VR is a big one. We have added new collaboration tools including:

  • Infinity Space – you can now load and view 1:1 scaled models (factories, manufacturing equipment, aircraft, ships, etc) from the no-code Snobal admin dashboard to view in the infinity space. Great for customer product demos to increase buy-in and understanding, design testing and review of engineering designs, or even use for new hire onboarding.
Image: Infinity space displaying 1:1 scaled model of an aircraft

  • 3D model controls – use the scale and rotate controls for 3D models to get up close to 3D models that you import into your virtual environment. Great for customer product demos and design collaboration and review.
Image: 3D model controls in action
  • Breakout Rooms – we’ve added breakout rooms to templated environments including Reception Hall, Command Room, and the Amphitheatre. Ideal for team breakouts and private meetings.
  • Whole room voice broadcast – a whole room broadcast feature on the Amphitheatre podium. Ideal for use in whole team presentations.
  • Crowd Control – the ability to mute and remove disruptive attendees from virtual environments.
  • Table Manners we’ve added the ability to teleport to and auto orientate the view for group meetings. Helps in ensuring social etiquette and comfort.
Image: Launch of VR apps from within a Snobal VR environment. VR apps can be built by Snobal, by the customer, or by a third-party developer of the customer’s choice
  • Launch VR apps from within the Snobal VR space – you can now upload your VR app from the no code admin dashboard and then launch the app within Snobal VR. Great for delivering virtual training and assessment as part of a curriculum, for example.

And there’s more….

We’ve also brought on some general life improvements including:

  • Network reconnection upon internet droppages.
  • CI/CD setup for Pico Neo3, HTC Focus, and Windows builds
  • Multiple Scalability improvements:
    • Huge reduction in Avatar RAM usage
    • LOD system for Avatars
    • Enable/Disable lip-sync based on distance
    • Improved logic to reduce Avatar transform traffic
    • Enabled Foveated rendering

Want to experience these features firsthand? The best way is to schedule a demo. Reach out below.

Schedule demo

In case you missed it

Metaverse and Fintech: The metaverse has major implications for the future of financial technology and could enable a digital economy writes Stephane Kasriel, previously CEO of Upwork and an early team member at PayPal. Read more.

Government eyes Metaverse: The government should care about the metaverse writes an article in GovTech where Governments can use the metaverse for reasons such as to better inform residents and entice public participation. Read more.

Sony stakes a metaverse claim: Sony is readying for the metaverse with a cross-platform push with Chief Executive Kenichiro Yoshida stating “mobility will be the next megatrend”. Read more.

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How we show up: Psychology of avatars in enterprise metaverse
Snobal Weekly

How we show up: Psychology of avatars in enterprise metaverse

Research suggests people alter behaviors based on assumptions about the appearance of their avatars, so what does this mean for avatar design in enterprise VR / the metaverse?

Avatar comfort and preference

Over the last month, Snobal has been discussing the topic of avatars frequently with our enterprise customers. How avatars should look (photorealistic or animated)? Should they be full-body or is half body sufficient?

User avatar comfort and preference is one key area of interest that’s important to keep in mind when talking about VR.

In short: is the user comfortable with the avatar that represents them?

In VR an avatar is something a user selects before entering a virtual environment or experience and where the user experiences the environment from the avatar’s point of view.

At Snobal currently, we have deliberately not offered users the ability to select photorealistic avatars. We have done this a bid to prevent any ‘uncanny valley’ experience. Instead, users can select animated avatars like this:

But what is the uncanny valley? The uncanny valley is a concept first introduced in the 1970s by a professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology, Masahiro Mori, who coined the term to describe the observation that robots that appear humanlike are more appealing but only up to a certain point. At a certain pt, they start to feel…creepy.

Did you know? Snobal Cloud now enables 3D asset import

Snobal Cloud now enables 3D assets namely GLTF and GLB file import: This enables customers to upload and render in a Snobal virtual environment 3D models and 3D animated models.

Read more

While the original article was written with robots and prosthetics largely in mind the same concept also applies in VR – if you seek to make avatars too photorealistic you risk having users getting distracted by the avatar or perhaps feeling unease at other users avatars and not achieving what they need to in VR environment whether its effective employee onboarding, product demos, workplace training etc.

Our favourite observation though by Mori echos with lessons for any VR designer or enterprise requesting photorealistic avatars for their virtual environment:

Thus, because of the risk inherent in trying to increase their [robots]degree of human likeness to scale the second peak, I recommend that designers instead take the first peak as their goal, which results in a moderate degree of human likeness and a considerable sense of affinity. In fact, I predict it is possible to create a safe level of affinity by deliberately pursuing a nonhuman design. I ask designers to ponder this. To illustrate the principle, consider eyeglasses. Eyeglasses do not resemble real eyeballs, but one could say that their design has created a charming pair of new eyes. So we should follow the same principle in designing prosthetic hands. In doing so, instead of pitiful-looking realistic hands, stylish ones would likely become fashionable.

– What Is the Uncanny Valley? Creepy robots and the strange phenomenon of the uncanny valley: definition, history, examples, and how to avoid it, 2019

For those interested you can read the original essay (translated) by Masahiro Mori here.

Impact of Avatars on behaviour

This goes to a related issue – avatars affecting behavior in VR.

Research suggests that people alter their cognitions and behaviors based on assumptions about the appearance of their avatars. (Sherrick et al, 2014).

For example, research has shown that taller avatars behave more confidently in a negotiation task than participants assigned shorter avatars. (Yee & Bailenson, 2007).

(Hint: perhaps consider avatars are all the same height in an enterprise VR experience?)

And other research found that the “more anthropomorphic (lack of androgyny) avatars were perceived to be “more attractive and credible and people were more likely to choose to be represented by them”, (Nowak & Rauh, 2005).

All of this falls under what you might call the Proteus Effect – the effect an avatar has on the user and others around them.

Both the Uncanny Valley and Proteus Effect are a fascinating exploration into the psychology of avatars and its an area we are going to see an explosion of research, learnings and insights over the coming years. It will also be interesting to see how VR/AR software companies iterate and make improvements as we learn more about how avatar comfort and preference influence user engagement and comfort in the VR environment.

In case you missed it

Accessibility in VR: VR is not going away so now attention turns to making it more accessible. More>

Microsoft believes the metaverse is coming and that transparency and interoperability are key. More>

Architects ignore VR at their peril: Architects who choose not to adopt the use of VR into their design process “fall victim to being at a significant disadvantage” writes the ArchDaily. More>

Metaverse job listings have grown by 379% since October 2021, according to research from Adzuna, a job search engine. More>

Qualcomm seeks to power the Metaverse : Qualcomm has recently announced the set up of a $100M metaverse fund to invest in virtual and augmented reality developers and technologies in a bid to power the metaverse. Not a surprising move given last year president and CEO Cristiano Amonsince is reported to have said the metaverse will be “bigger than mobile.” More>

Accenture’s perspective on the enterprise metaverse: Fortune Global 500 company Accenture has announced a revamp of its orientation process with employees in Australia and New Zealand now launching into “the company’s metaverse”. It has also released a report on its perspective on the metaverse – the ‘metaverse continuum. More>

KPMG recently released its metaverse report – Future of Extended Reality 10 predictions, 15 experts’ outlining some central theme, trends and insights shared from 15 experts including Snobal’s CEO, Murray James. More>

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Snobal Weekly

Standards in XR: The Reality of Privacy

As Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (XR) become more pervasive the urgent need for clarity and transparency around standards in XR becomes clear.

According to some industry analysts, there are three key elements of the metaverse. These elements might not get as much focus or attention as the metaverse itself but they do deserve attention.

☑️ Presence – the sense of being ‘there’ when in a virtual environment.

☑️ Interoperability – the ability to move seamlessly from one virtual environment/world to the next bringing digital assets and avatars.

☑️ Standardization – guidelines or a rulebook for the best way to do something. (Well, we have standards for Food Safety and Health & Safety so why not the metaverse?)

But when we look at standards in XR it becomes apparent that they are embryonic, especially when compared to the pace of current technological development and adoption.

But there are organizations that are playing a key role in driving standards in virtual reality and augmented reality(XR) and there is now an increased urgency to their work.

This includes the Bipartisan Policy Center and the XR Association’s, XR Initiative, the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group, which is looking at metaverse standardization, and the XR Safety Initiative (XRSI) which looks more specifically at safety standards in XR.

A Privacy Framework for XR

The XRSI is a not-for-profit that ‘promotes privacy, security, ethics and looks to develop standards around application security for Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality (VR/AR/MR)’.

Working in partnership with national governing bodies, universities, and businesses in late 2020 XRSI released a medical, privacy, and safety framework.  

The Privacy framework version 1.0 has is described as “a globally accessible baseline rulebook” and the first step to bringing a global privacy framework for XR.

Importantly this includes looking to an expanded definition of personal information in light of the potential of tracking and capturing biometrical data in ways not previously available.

Privacy by design – and default?

One of the most important focus areas of safety in XR is privacy.

We all like when the technology we use is convenient and intuitive. But sometimes the promise of convenience can mean the loss of privacy for the user.

With XR the question arises of how government decision-makers and policymakers can consider how existing or proposed data protection laws protect users’ rights. For example, do XR developers ensure that sensitive personal data is encrypted in transit and at rest? Who owns the data and where is it processed and stored?

In the framework, XRSI looks to Ann Cavoukian’s “Seven Privacy by Design” principles to guide this topic. These principles are recognized as a core part of the European Union GDPR regulations.

The framework looks to privacy by design encapsulating seven key elements:

01.Preventative, not Remedial
02. Privacy as the Default
03. Privacy Embedded into Design
04. Full Functionality
05. End-to-End Security—Lifecycle Protection
06. Visibility and Transparency
07. Respect for User Privacy

Privacy in XR is an area we are going to read and hear a lot more about. If you’d like to know more about this topic there are some great resources out there:

Participate in XR Safety Week (6-10 Dec 2021) with coverage on topics ranging from child safety, diversity and inclusion, media XR and digital human rights.

Thinking Ahead About XR: Privacy and Security in an Immersive World

VR/AR: Privacy & Autonomy Considerations in Emerging, Immersive Digital Worlds

XR Security, Privacy, Safety, and Ethics Considerations in Higher Education

Assessing AR/VR providers? Consider security

If you’re in the midst of assessing VR/AR platforms and product providers for 2022 consider asking these four security questions.

Want to know more about Snobal’s security approach on the VR/AR platform for enterprise and education? Reach out.

In case you missed it

With everything digital by default in organisations is it time to get rid of the IT dept? This article on the WSJ thinks so and outlines how an IT department is preventing companies from being innovative, agile, customer-focused, and digitally transformed. Read more>

Ultraleap bags investment to accelerate hand tracking: a technology company focusing on VR/AR hand-tracking and haptics, has announced that it has completed a GBP £60 million (USD $82 million) investment to “accelerate the transition to the primary interface – your hands – because there are no physical controllers, buttons or touchscreens in anyone’s vision of the metaverse.” Read more>

Top Performers in all sectors are increasingly aggressive in tech investment: The pandemic had sped up the adoption of digital technologies by several years, with research by McKinsey & Co showing that top economic performers across all sectors are already ahead taken more actions than peers such as cementing technology partnerships, increasing investment and R&D. Read more.

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Virtual workplaces
Snobal Weekly

Considering the Virtual in the Fit for Future workplace

As organisations seek to land on a suitable workplace model for their business assessing the place and impact of the Virtual Workplace in any new model is key.

The office will continue to be an important site for workplace collaboration reports a new insight piece by PwC but it won’t be the only space.

To help organizations take the next step, PwC has collaborated with international design firm Hassell to explore what the future workplace might look like.

The other place?

It paints an interesting picture of the fit-for-the-future workplace. In the article, PwC outlines that there will be three key places -the home, the office, and the third place for eg a co-working space or cafe. All these places are physical.

It causes us to wonder that perhaps what the world now looks like is that virtual is a shadow connecting all these physical places and people work connected across the different ‘places’?

Source: Inspired by graphic in Changing Places: Designing hybrid offices that work, PwC, 2021.

Workplace models

The PwC insight piece reflects a document by Hassel which reviewed the latest academic research and their insights on the future of the workplace.

The document “Remote? In-person? Hybrid? How to structure the workplace after COVID has Hassel compare five workplace models spanning:

1) As it Was 2) Turbocharged ABW 3)Clubhouse 4)Hub and Spoke and; 5) No office.

Again all the workplace models portrayed revolve around a physical place.

Fit for Future workplaces and the metaverse

This is interesting in the context of a new research paper – “Into the Metaverse” – by insight agency Wunderman Thompson.

The paper evokes now as a time where more and more of our lives are spent virtually and “it’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish “real” life from a life lived digitally.” People are moving seamlessly between the physical and the virtual doing what they need to do – communicate, collaborate and work.

In terms of the fit for the future workplace we are moving to a time where the workplace is seen not as a physical space but rather as a space (both virtual and physical) where people do things.

The shift to remote work is giving rise to companies prioritizing virtual environments…The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping the future of work, pointing to a flexible hybrid model. “We anticipate never going back to five days a week in the office. That seems very old-fashioned now,” stated Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever…”

Source: New trend report: Into the Metaverse. Wunderman Thompson, 2021.

Because virtual environments are limited only by imagination it means organisations won’t be restricted by the physical limitations of office size, office design, structural columns – or budget.

Virtual environments can be created that reflect the company brand. These environments can be updated regularly and extended.

This seamless move between physical and virtual will create new business models, careers, and revenue models.

New opportunities, markets, and careers

Indeed design technology specialist Chloe Sun, of HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering firm recently wrote a piece in outlining how with the tech available and the rise of the metaverse architects can move from designing physical workplaces to also designing virtual workplaces.

The metaverse Sun goes on to say, provides architects the opportunity to move from selling their time to selling scaleable products and solutions.

For architects, the metaverse is a virgin territory full of possibilities, and a Utopia without the constraints of the physical world…Architects can also build digital assets like cities, buildings, furniture, sculptures, point clouds, textures..etc, and sell them multiples times to virtual worlds, games, and movies.”

You could say it’s all part of the rise of the workplace metaverse. What’s your organisation’s take on the workplace moving into the new normal?

In case you missed it

The metaverse is coming and apparently, brands need to get on board or risk getting left behind reports a new research paper by intelligence insight agency Wunderman Thompson. More>

Are you a User or Creator? Digital tech is the future, but Australia risks being left behind finds a new academic article in The Conversation. More>

Legal Guide to the Metaverse: A multi-disciplinary team of lawyers at US-based Reed Smith have compiled a user-friendly guide to the legal issues that the metaverse will create. More>

Designing for the Hybrid World of Work [Podcast]: Matt Blain, Managing Principal for UK & Europe, Hassell and Jeff Phipps, General Manager, ADP UK & Ireland discuss what to consider when designing an office space for hybrid working. More>

Top VR podcasts. More>

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criteria to follow when evaluating technologies including VR/AR for business
Snobal Weekly

Want to add VR/AR tech to your digital toolkit? Here are the top criteria to follow when evaluating tech

For many businesses globally, the last few months have been spent looking at what technologies are needed for the new normal. VR and AR are at the top of the list but how best to assess and evaluate?

A just-launched Australian government report from The Productivity Commission reveals Australians are expected to keep working remotely after the pandemic subsidies with hybrid working the most likely format.

For many businesses globally, the last few months, in particular, have been spent looking at what technologies are needed for the new normal, and invariably virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality(AR) are at the top of the list.

But what criteria should be followed when evaluating VR/AR technology for your organisation?

Hybrid/WFH Technology kept the wheels turning – and often made them faster

There is no denying WFH technologies played a key role in keeping many businesses’ work moving forward over the last 18mths.

The US-based National Bureau of Economic Research found the widespread adoption of WFH technology increased productivity in WFH compared to the office:

The model suggests the widespread adoption of WFH technology increased the productivity of working from home relative to the productivity of working in the office by 46 percent between the onset and the end of the pandemic.

Source: The work-from-home technology boon. April 2021

No surprise then that those businesses that had already beefed up their digital adoption pre-pandemic ensured that were well placed to take advantage of the ‘virtual first’ environment,

Our results indicate that firms with higher digital resilience, as measured through our pre-pandemic WFH index, performed significantly better in general, and in non-essential industries in particular, where WFH feasibility was necessary to continue operation.

Source: Digital Resilience: How Work-From-Home Feasibility Affects Firm Performance. March 2021

Questions to guide VR/AR tech assessment

Many businesses have spent the last 18+mths experimenting with WFH digital and collaboration technologies but the use of VR/AR had not been widespread pre-pandemic. When remote working took off in earnest many organizations suddenly looked at VR/AR through a new lens to solve mission-critical problems like customer engagement and collaboration; employee collaboration; employee onboarding and workplace training.

But in terms of criteria to follow when evaluating technologies including VR/AR for business, we like this article from Vera Solutions, which we have adapted for assessing VR/AR tech. See below:

Like this emailed to you as a PDF? Email us.

Can you think of any other questions that would be helpful to ask? Share your thoughts.

In case you missed it

Apple still working on AR hardware – apparently. Apple’s launch event last week unveiled the iPhone 13 but the long-awaited release of an AR headset did not materialise. Perhaps that is because the phone is turning into an AR machine? More>

Growth of B2B: We’re at the dawn of a renaissance in B2B commerce creating a new playbook for the next generation of B2B marketplaces. More>

A new era of distance learning: Predictions are we are entering a new era of distance learning that is synchronous, interactive, engaging, and dare we say it immersive? More>

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Snobal Sphere select avatar welcome
Snobal Weekly

Snobal and University of Arizona Partner to Research Virtual Avatar Preference in Bid to Ensure More Inclusive Virtual Learning Experiences

The innovative research recognises VR adoption for learning in enterprise and education is at a critical inflection point and there there is a need to look to industry standards.

Welcome to Snobal Midweek. This is where we share our update of what we’re hearing, sharing and thinking about this week. As always if you find Snobal Midweek of value, please comment, forward or share.

Snobal and the Center for Digital Humanities at University of Arizona have announced they are the successful recipients of a Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) grant investigating the impact on learning of the choice and comfort level with digital avatars in immersive learning experiences.

As VR technologies become more widely adopted in educational settings  to enhance student engagement there is an  increasing focus on how best to ensure that VR technologies and experiences are accessible to people from diverse backgrounds and abilities.

The research will study students’ preference and selection of virtual avatars in an immersive virtual environment and how those decisions and options can foster a more positive learning environment for people from diverse backgrounds and abilities.

“The world works very differently than it did a year ago.  We are seeing a huge shift in where and how people work and study and the adoption of digital technologies such as VR. VR has the potential to change the way we learn, collaborate and communicate but many of the elements around responsible development and use are still evolving including guidelines on virtual avatar design and preference,”

– Ann Nolan, Snobal co-founder and Chief Growth Officer

“We know that the experience people have of their virtual avatars impacts how they feel in VR. Avatars can literally change people’s behavior and attitudes and how they feel about themselves in VR. But we don’t know what avatar choice needs to be made available to students to ensure inclusive learning experiences? What drives avatar comfort in learning environments? This research is about enabling us to better understand this so the broader VR industry can have clear direction,”  said Nolan.

Did you know: Avatars can change users’ behavior and attitudes. Research on the Proteus Effect has found that embodying Albert Einstein can increase cognitive task performance.   Read more.

Bryan Carter, Director of the Center for Digital Humanities and Associate Professor of Africana Studies, will introduce his students to Snobal’s enterprise VR collaboration and presentation authoring app, Snobal Sphere, using the Pico Neo 2 Eye headsets.  

The students will have a selection of diverse options as they establish themselves in the virtual environment and begin engaging with the course content. Anonymous data collected via survey, eye tracking and choice will be used to enhance user experience throughout the semester and presented through a white paper at the end of the study.

“Digital avatars are supposed to represent the user, but the virtual representations have often been a generic, one-size-fits-all variety, lacking in cultural diversity and physical ability…There is an opportunity now to develop industry standards and broad guidance on avatar comfort and other preferences to ensure that virtual technologies are accessible to people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.”

– Bryan Carter, Director of the Center for Digital Humanities at University of Arizona

The use of digital technologies including VR/AR for remote collaboration has accelerated in both business and educational settings in the last year with online education assuming greater importance than before and students’ needs and expectations having changed.

The Snobal and The Center for Digital Humanities at The University of Arizona project is funded by a research grant from FRL, which requested proposals targeting the company’s third Responsible Innovation Principle: “Consider Everyone.” 

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Enterprise VR collaboration us is coming
Snobal Weekly

The Challenge of Collaboration: Adding VR collaboration to your digital toolkit

Key questions our customers ask on implementing a VR collaboration solution.

Welcome to Snobal Midweek. This is where we share our update of what we’re hearing, sharing and thinking about this week. As always if you find Snobal Midweek of value, please comment, forward or share.

Collaboration. The word is everywhere.

While the pandemic induced disruption has driven us all into our homes and onto our devices, it has also made the word “collaboration” have a resonance in a way it never had before.

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As the chaos caused by the last year slowly subsides slowy, business leaders, CEO and boards across the globe are wrangling with the knowledge that hybrid working is here to stay and what that means for how they work.

Employees want to have an office to go to but not all the time. In fact, just a bit of the time and when it suits them. Given that everyone isn’t going to race back into the office anytime soon, what does the organisations digital toolkit around “collaboration” need to look like for the “new normal”?

What is needed to enable more effective employee and customer engagement, collaboration and learning to keep ahead of the game?

In a world where remote working is the new normal, organizations must excel in digital collaboration and harness the power of digital technologies and processes to achieve business outcomes.


If you are an organisation in healthcare, engineering, medtech, pharmacuticals, management consultancy, education, workplace training, media, museums and culture, in fact any industry sector and are wanting to add immersive or virtual reality (VR) collaboration to your organisations digital arsenal what do you need to consider?

Collaborative learning can help managers work together to establish new ways of communicating and managing dispersed workforces, while also supporting greater team agility and employee empowerment.


What are the things you need to be asking and thinking about?

We’ve captured some of the key questions we get asked from customers about implementing VR collaboration in the workplace.

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Have we missed any? Still have questions? Let us know.

In case you missed it

Realistic avatars and learning: Are realistic looking avatars needed to enhance virtul reality learning? Maybe not. More >

Hybrid Work Is Here To Stay. Now What? [Interestingly this interview with Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom on blending remote and on-site work does not appear to take account of the potential impact of immersive VR collaboration. ] More>

60% want to work out of the office, but only 2% of want to do this full time. More >

How to calculate the ROI (or Return on Immersion) for (consumer) VR requires new ways of thinking – and moving. More>

Epic Games acquires Sketchfab to become a 3D files powerhouse on the web. More>

We like

Get your lifevest: COVID19 vaccinations are like a lifevest says former US surgeon general Jerome Adams. “You may still get wet….but the lifevest [the] vaccine significantly lessens the chance you’ll drown”. More>

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I tried VR once
Snobal Weekly

” I tried VR once. I didnt like it.”

Why it’s a bad idea to let past exposure of virtual reality and augmented reality (XR) headsets and experiences guide decisions on current potential and opportunities.

It was early 2016 and Snobal was just over two years old. There was lots of interest in virtual reality (VR) in the market. Facebook’s $2B acqusition of Oculus was just over two years old. Back then questions from business on VR or augmented reality (AR) tended to always focus on the issue of “what is VR”. Talk of the business potential, the transformational capability, the potential ROI and the threats to existing business models was on the distant horizon.

Our meeting was with a large publicly funded organisation. They were interested in learning more how VR could better assist them communicate their unique offering to the public. It was a classic case of using VR for customer engagement. The application was brillant. The potential disuption to an existing business model massive. The opportunity to be world leading there for the taking. But we knew the argument was lost when two decision makers turned up for the meeting, one with their 15year old daughter in tow. We were told the Yr 9 student was there to help them “assess the technology” and opportunity.

Then at the very start of the meeting, sitting at the top of the table the key decision maker declared:

” I tried VR once. I didnt like it.”

It was something you couldn’t argue with. Just to be polite. Except you were itching to.

Hearing this felt somewhat akin to 15yrs ago saying to someone working in web development – “I tried the Internet once. I didnt like it”. It would lead you to ask the person what was the website they visited? “Because not all websites or web experiences are the same you know? Some online experiences are transactional, others are for connecting with likeminded people, still others are educational and other online experiences are for entertainment!”.

Virtual by default

VR technology and headsets have matured since 2016. A lot. Back in 2016 it was tethered territory. Content was mostly gaming and consumer related and game developers and 3D artists were trying to figure out how to make and optimise VR experiences so that they didn’t trigger uncomfortable user sensory experiences.

It’s now 2021. The landscape is vastly different. Throw in a global pandemic that has literally given “virtual by default, not by afterthought” phrase a whole new meaning.

Now we have lightweight, all in one wireless headsets with a vastly reduced price tag from 2015. And the number of companies working in or providing XR software solutions is growing rapidly.

The global VR market size was USD $3.10B and is projected to reach USD 57.55B by 2027 exhibiting a CAGR of 44.3% during the forecast period.

VR and AR is transforming what it means to work remotely and virtually.

Salesforce  announced recently that its employees would have the option to work remotely full time ongoing. Canadian multinational e-commerce company Shopify declared mid last year that it is a “digital by default company”. Twitter, based in San Francisco, told employees in May 2020 that they could work from home indefinitely. Research company Nielsen is reported to have plans to convert its New York City offices into meeting and hotdesk spaces for employees who continue to work from home.

As companies make the move to permanent remote working arrangements or instigating hybrid models this will and is changing the landscape, business models and opportunities on how these companies collaborate, communicate and engage with each other.

For example if some of your major clients/customers announced they were instigating permanent remote working arrangements for their staff have you considered how this might impact how your employees communicate and collaborate with your client/customer, not to mention how your employees will continue effectively to undertake sales, business development and client/customer relations?

At Snobal we’re now seeing VR been applied across employee and customer engagement, workplace learning and education across both soft skills and technical skills, not to mention built environment design testing. All solutions are powered by our XR engine, Snobal Cloud.

One of the interesting paradoxes in working with customers whose last experience of XR was in 2015 or 2016 is challenging preconceptions. As Louise Liu, Head of Operations and Delivery at PwC UK writes in The Telegraph [sign up walled] this week:

“Don’t let past experiences and outdated perceptions of VR technology shape your thinking.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

In case you missed it

Adaptive learning: Having different strategies to administer lessons can benefit students and maximize learning potential. This includes attention to newer technologies such as VR. Read more.

Event: How higher education can adapt to pandemic challenges. An event hosted by SAP looking at trends and challenges within Higher Education and how targeted investments in technology including VR can help. Read more.

JVC to Launch XR Headset for Enterprise Next Month: JVC is set to launch its so-called HMD-VS1W in late March with a listing as an “open price” product. The headset uses a proprietary mirror display to achieve a 120-degree FOV. Learn more.

200M Snapchat users use AR daily in Q4 2020: Snapchat has the highest percentage of overall user base that have engaged with AR. As Snap Chief Business Officer Jeremi Gorman commented “Consumers are in need of new ways to experience products and brands need to reach consumers where they are; at home”. Read more.

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In a world of change how technology (including VR & AR) is shouldering burden of business continuity & recovery
Snobal Weekly

Re-imagining innovation in the new normal using digital platforms such as XR

Research has shown innovation decreased during COVID19 due to teams being unable to replicate dynamics of being together in the same room but what impact might technologies such as XR have on this?

It’s Snobal Midweeks first post for 2021 and it’s already the end of Jan. How did that happen?! While the end of the year tends to cause people to pause and reflect. A New Year can bring an impetus to renew and refocus. And so too at Snobal, where we are currently busy planning for our upcoming Annual Strategy Day. And of course as part of our Strategy Day it’s got us thinking on all things fostering communication, productivity, team work / life balance, collaboration and of course innovation in the year ahead.

Innovation down?
So innovation. According to research by University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School innovation in business decreased during COVID19.

The culprit? Digital platforms like video conferencing unable to “replicate the dynamics of being together in the same room” collaborating and “feeding off the energy of co-workers”.

“It’s a challenge to feel connected, confident, and communicate effectively with the team, and we know from a lot of research that creativity and innovation largely happen through collaboration…” – Professor Michael Parke, Wharton Management

The study, commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Boston Consulting Group and KRC Research polled 9,000 managers and employees in large companies in 15 markets across Europe, with aprox 600 respondents per country.

According to Parke there are three steps companies can take to overcome the innovation challenge – train employees to work remotely effectively; prioritize connecting with your team and finally (our favourite we have to admit) give employees a choice of a wide range of collaborative tools.

Don’t limit them to Zoom or email, but onboard a number of different platforms so that each employee can find what suits them.

Learn more

Digital platforms driving new ways of thinking?

Other collaborative research from Singapore Management University, Harvard University and INSEAD explores the impact of the Covid‐19 pandemic on technology and innovation management research.

The paper looks at changes in assumptions underlying theories of innovation. But it also touches on how collaboration and communication drive innovative behaviour and how potentially digital platforms (and we would like to include virtual reality and augmented reality in this) may drive a different form of innovation, if you like.

what is unclear is how much of that can be replicated or bettered in online contexts. Could conformity pressures that induce groupthink be less prevalent in virtual groups? Can rapid iteration and prototyping with boundary objects be feasible online? Will collaboration patterns change in terms of co‐producers of knowledge? Virtual work might nudge individual exploration patterns such that the locus of search shifts from co‐located offices to geographically distant colleagues.

Which begs us to leave you with one question.

What collaborative tools are you providing your team? And how can your business foster better team and customer collaboration – and innovation?

In case you missed it

VR in classroom: Results of a study on the use of a virtual reality (VR) world in a German language classroom found students reported an improvement in their listening skills, learning vocabulary, general fluency,and improving pronunciation and reading skills.  Read more.

Arrival of Apple VR headset ? Apple plans on releasing a virtual reality (VR) headset as a bridge to AR reports Bloomberg this week. Does this mean market dominance for Apple in the XR hardware space? Read more.

Real lessons from Kodaks’ decline [archives]: Speaking of market dominance it’s also worth reflecting on lessons from the business graveyard. Read more.

Cautiously optomistic: Wunderman Thompson Intelligence looks at how big change is in motion in their trends and change to watch in 2021. Read more.

What exactly will 2021 bring for startups? Here’s a list of 20 UK industry experts predictions. Read more.

Accelerating pace of XR: XR is shown no sign of slowingWorldwide spending on augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) is forecast to accelerate out of the pandemic, growing from just over $12.0 billion in 2020 to $72.8 billion in 2024. Key focal areas – corporate learning, training and education. Read more.

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