Research shows that VR meetings are inferior to video meetings

Research shows that VR meetings are inferior to video meetings

Photo: Universität Münster

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It’s a big bet from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg: virtual reality dating will one day surpass traditional video dating and possibly real dating. What is the state of the game?

Since Corona, there has been a worldwide boom in online meetings and web conferencing in everyday school and work life. Since most of these meetings take place in two dimensions, for example via Teams, Webex or Zoom, scientists from the University of Münster ask themselves the following research question: Does virtual reality make meetings more productive and team results better with VR headsets than with Teams? , Zoom and other 2D meeting platforms?

Real-time multisensory interaction

Virtual reality enables real-time multisensory social interaction, researchers say. VR users move and interact 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. The virtual encounter you know from Zoom and Co. is enhanced with more sensory perceptions in virtual reality.

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

300 student test (VR) meetings

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

In an interview with MIXED, Professor Hennig-Thurau speaks somewhat eloquently about the “logistical masterpiece”. Since the university only has 30 Meta Quest 2s at its disposal, the team first sends VR headsets to part of the first group. 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. A third group uses social VR apps like Altspace VR in 2D on a regular monitor.

The authors of the study emphasize that all participants met from home. The conditions should be as realistic as possible and include all possible difficulties such as poor internet connection.

VR has a better sense of presence, but is less productive

The first finding is not surprising: perceived in VR the social presence of the participants is more prominent than 2D meetings, which has a positive effect on meetings. Participants reported a sense of togetherness and closeness in VR.

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Another positive factor Mobility in VRNot in this form in 2D meetings. It provides more fun and engagement during meetings and makes them more creative, participants said.

However, researchers note that looking and walking around in a 3D environment also distracts participants. The static environment of classic 2D meetings increases concentration.

The researchers also investigated burnout caused by session variants. Here virtual reality performed the worst and Burnout was particularly high among participants wearing VR headsets. Among the reasons given by students were the weight distribution of VR headsets and, in some cases, poor graphics.

At the start of the study, Hennig-Thurau’s team still expected VR to outperform Zoom and Co. in all areas. But in the sum of empirically investigated effects, VR meetings did not outperform 2D meetings. Zoom and Co are more productive. 3D rooms visited on a monitor create the lowest social presence.

Why are VR meetings still not working?

Why VR meetings still don’t work is a topic for future research. The Muenster scientists suspect, among other things, that there may be negative effects less realistic representation of participants as avatars. Some people felt very isolated from the physical world in their VR encounters.

Researchers have yet to provide empirical evidence for this. Researchers still disagree on whether better technologies can improve the productivity and quality of VR meetings. Hennig-Thurau says it’s more important to improve the functionality and design of VR meetings.

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