Using VR Chatrooms To Manage Your Remote Employees

Globalization lets organizations access a global talent pool, moreover, large businesses now have offices in many locations. A considerable number of employees in many organizations work from home, which makes teams even more distributed.

Organizations must balance this with the ever-present need to become more effective, and collaboration is key to this. They are now turning to technology solutions such as Virtual Reality (VR) chatrooms to improve collaboration among remote employees and distributed teams.

If you are a senior leader in an organization, you are likely wondering about using VR chatrooms to manage your remote employees. Read on, as this exactly what I explain here.

Contents

The importance of VR in operational efficiency
VR chat rooms for businesses: An emerging employee-centric VR use case
Creating a VR chatroom app to manage remote employees
Planning to improve the productivity of your team with your VR chatroom app?

The importance of VR in operational efficiency

Businesses often focus on the high-profile consumer-centric VR use cases, e.g., gaming, entertainment, VR ads, etc. Other prominent consumer-centric VR use cases are potential buyers “viewing” real estate or potential tourists “experiencing” their destination upfront using VR. It‘s no surprise that the global VR market will likely reach $49.7 billion in 2023 with a CAGR of 58.54%, as Reuters states.

However, VR also has important employee-centric use cases, e.g.:

  • Employee training: Jobs requiring complex operations require a significant amount of hands-on training, however, that‘s expensive. Many organizations are using VR simulation to reduce their training costs.
  • Prototyping during product development: Products requiring complex engineering, e.g., defense/aerospace hardware require prototyping, and VR can improve this process significantly.
  • Improving workflow: Realistic VR simulations can help team members in complex product development teams, e.g., they can write the maintenance manual for complex hardware platforms even before the product is manufactured. Product engineering teams can execute this task in parallel while the product development is in progress.
  • Better collaboration: VR rooms can help employees in an organization collaborate better when they work on complex tasks.
  • Managing meetings: Distributed teams and remote employees rule out face-to-face meetings, however, VR enables team members to experience a meeting environment close to that.

I have explained these employee-centric VR use cases in “Benefits of building a VR app for your employees”.

VR chat rooms for businesses: An emerging employee-centric VR use case

We are seeing the emergence of a use case that‘s closely related to managing meetings with VR, and that‘s VR chat rooms for businesses. This is an enhancement of managing meetings using VR, and it might include productivity aids, e.g.:

  • You might offer whiteboards to meeting participants, moreover, you could allow them to share their screens.
  • Meeting participants might need a text chat feature, and they might need to exchange files.
  • In a meeting involving a product engineering team, you could enable them to modify a 3D model.
  • The team might need to run a presentation, therefore, you need to provide appropriate tools for that.

You could also invite other stakeholders like sales representatives and have them take a look at the prototype. This could help them in their upcoming meeting with the customers. Read “Top 7 business conference apps in VR” to learn more about the importance of VR chat rooms in business.

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Creating a VR chatroom app to manage remote employees

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You need to take the following steps to create a VR chatroom app to manage remote employees:

1. Agree on a project scope

You need to lead the business and IT teams to agree on project scope, and I recommend the following:

  • Offer VR collaboration and chat features;
  • Build a web app, an Android app, and an iOS app with the above-mentioned VR features.

2. Select the right SDLC model

If you are embarking on this project as a part of a large transformation to improve productivity, then this is likely a very important project. You and the other senior leaders in the organization would want clear visibility about the progress of the project, and this requires thorough reviews after key milestones.

Given that such projects have well-defined requirements, I recommend that you use the Waterfall SDLC model for this. You can have structures reviews after every phase to mitigate risks, as I have earlier explained in “What is software development life cycle and what you plan for?”.

3. Project team formation

You need to onboard the project manager (PM) and IT architect first so that you can start the project planning, subsequently, you can onboard the remaining team according to the resource loading plan. For a high-visibility project like this, I recommend that you hire a field expert development team, as I have explained in “Freelance app development team vs. field expert software development teams”.

You need the following roles in addition to the PM and IT architect:

  • Business analysts;
  • UI designers;
  • VR developers;
  • Web developers;
  • Android developers;
  • iOS developers;
  • DevOps engineers.

VR developers need to have the following skills and competencies:

  • SDLC knowledge;
  • Familiarity with AWS managed cloud services;
  • Knowledge of VR development tools;
  • Familiarity with web, Android, and iOS development;
  • In-depth understanding of testing and DevOps;
  • The ability to collaborate with testers and DevOps engineers.

You can read “How to hire VR developers – the ultimate checklist” to learn more about VR development skills and competencies.

4. Formulate a development approach

The PM and IT architect should work together to formulate an effective development approach, and I recommend the following:

  • Use AWS Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Mobile-Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS) platforms so that you don‘t need to manage the IT infrastructure.
  • Build the core VR features using a reputed VR development tool, which expedites the project.
  • Enhance the test coverage with a test automation aid.

Read “What is the best development approach to guarantee the success of your app?” to understand why this is an effective approach for this project.

5. Estimate the project

You need to estimate the following cost components to arrive at the project cost estimate:

  • Development manpower across phases like requirements analysis, design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance;
  • IT infrastructure;
  • Development and testing tools;
  • Administrative costs like hiring, travel, etc.

You can read “How much does it cost to build a VR app?” to understand how to go about the cost estimation.

6. Sign up for the AWS PaaS platform

The VR chatroom needs a web app, and you need to sign up for the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering from AWS, which is AWS Elastic Beanstalk. A PaaS platform offers multiple advantages, e.g.:

  • You don‘t need to hire a cloud platform architect since the PaaS provider manages cloud infrastructure, networking, middleware, operating system, and runtime environment. This enables you to focus on web app development.
  • It‘s easy to integrate databases and 3rd party APIs in your app when you use a PaaS platform.
  • You can use the application performance monitoring (APM) and auto-scaling solutions offered by the PaaS platform, and this helps in scaling your web app.
  • Reputed PaaS platforms offer robust DevOps solutions, which help in continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD).

I have earlier explained these advantaged of using a PaaS platform in our guide “10 top PaaS providers for 2019”.

Read How We Helped a Marketing Company to Build a Back-Office Custom Ads Dashboard

7. Sign up for AWS Amplify

AWS Amplify is the Mobile-Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS) offering from AWS, and I recommend that you use this for the mobile app development. MBaaS platforms offer plenty of advantages, e.g.:

  • They manage cloud infrastructure, networking, and persistent storage.
  • You don‘t need to develop and manage the mobile backend, therefore, you don‘t need to hire backend developers.
  • MBaaS providers make it easy to implement features like user management, push notifications, and security.
  • You can easily integrate 3rd party APIs, moreover, it‘s easy to scale your mobile app when you use an MBaaS platform.
  • There are several mobile platforms and many devices, which adds to the complexity of mobile app development. However, it‘s easy to manage this complexity when you use an MBaaS platform.

You can read “How to choose the best Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS)?” to understand more about the advantages of using an MBaaS platform.

8. Get Amazon Sumerian for building the VR features

Let‘s now talk about building the core VR features in the VR chatroom app. I recommend that you use a reputed development tool for this, and Amazon Sumerian is the right choice.

A key advantage of Sumerian is that it supports all key VR platforms like Oculus Go, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, HTC Vive Pro, Lenovo Mirage, etc. Sumerian has good news for you even when you come to the mobile VR landscape since it supports both Android and iOS.

Sumerian supports key VR use cases like employee education, training simulations, field service productivity, design and creative, etc. As you can see, each of these use cases requires collaboration, therefore, Sumerian is the right choice for building the VR chatroom app.

You can use the following resources to learn Sumerian:

The pricing plans for Sumerian are available here.

9. Sign-up for pCloudy mobile and web browser lab

You will need to test the VR chatroom app against a large number of mobile devices and web browsers, however, that‘s not easy with open-source test automation frameworks. I recommend that you sign-up with pCloudy since it offers a mobile device and browser lab on the cloud. The company claims that you can test with over 5,000 combinations of devices and browsers.

10. UI design

The VR chatroom app needs a user-friendly UI, therefore, I recommend that you use the following resources for the UI design:

11. Developing the web app

My recommendation is that you code the web app using Node.js, which is a popular open-source runtime environment. Node.js offers the following advantages:

  • Since it enables asynchronous, event-driven programming, apps written in Node.js scale well. Scalability is an important requirement for a VR app, therefore, Node.js fits the bill well.
  • js is good for streaming.
  • This runtime is based on JavaScript. Many developers know JavaScript, therefore, programmers can learn Node.js quickly.
  • There is a vibrant developer community for Node.js, and you can find many useful frameworks and tools. This helps in improving the productivity of the development team.

Read “10 great tools for Node.Js software development” to understand these advantages.

You need to take the following steps for web app development:

12. Code, test, and publish the Android app

I suggest that you code the Android app in Java. This language has been a mainstay for Android development, therefore, many Android developers have considerable experience with it.

Android app development involves the following steps:

  • Use Android Studio since this is the popular IDE for Android app development.
  • If the team needs guidance on using Java on Android Studio, they can read “Build your first Android app in Java”.
  • Integrate Sumerian API with your app.
  • Use Espresso and pCloudy mobile device lab to test the app.
  • Publish the app to Google Play, by following this guide.

13. Developing the iOS app

I recommend that you use Objective-C to code the iOS app. For quite some time, this feature-rich language has been popular with iOS developers, therefore, many iOS developers know it.

Take the following steps to develop the iOS app:

  • Code the app using Xcode, i.e., the IDE used by developers to code apps for Apple platforms.
  • Integrate Amazon Sumerian in your code.
  • Test the app using XCTest and pCloudy mobile device lab.
  • Follow these instructions to publish the app to the Apple App Store.

Planning to improve the productivity of your team with your VR chatroom app?

VR chatrooms can significantly improve productivity in your team by facilitating collaboration, however, building a VR chatroom app can be complex. Consider engaging a capable software development company, and read our guide “How to find the best software development company?” for due diligence.

Download Our Project Specification Template

Aran Davies

Blockchain Expert | Developer | Writer | Photographer
I love all things blockchain and related to app development. What time I have when I am not busy writing for the DevTeam.Space blog of over 350 articles, I spend sitting around wondering what the future will look like 50 years from now.
Aran Davies