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COVID-19 and VR: Remote Working Tools Help Businesses and Employees Cope

by David MacQueen | Apr 02, 2020

With the increased restrictions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and workers globally have been turning to remote working tools to maintain productivity in a rapidly changing environment. Conventional tools, such as Microsoft’s Teams, have seen sizable increases in uptake. Teams had 20m users at the end of November 2019, but by mid-March 2020 it had over 44m daily active users.

VR could also provide a solution to help overcome some of the challenges to remote working, perhaps more so than conventional productivity tools. Sharing of 3D objects and real-time design collaboration give VR an edge for certain workers, such as designers or architects. Avatars can replace some of the face-to-face interactions that might not otherwise happen now that employees are working remotely.

One challenge is that VR headsets are required to use the tools in the first place. So far, penetration of such devices is relatively low – so are users buying the required hardware? Search traffic for the most popular VR headsets has increased significantly over the last 30 days, having more than doubled (+117%).

VR Remote Working Tools Infographic

Search trends can also shine a light on which VR remote working tools are gaining traction. We have identified the top 21 VR remote working tools based on search volume, as shown in the infographic (they are presented in alphabetical order in the graphic). All of the tools feature some level of meeting and conferencing functionality, with a handful focused exclusively on providing those tools. Other software is more focused on providing training in VR, and the third category of tools focuses on collaborative design and the sharing of 3D objects.

The complete rankings, along with profiles of all the companies, are available in the full report. I won't disclose the "winner", but if I wrote a clickbait title to this article, it would be "Top 21 VR tools - Number 3 will shock you!". It surprised me. The third most searched-for tool is The Wild, which addresses the relatively niche architecture market. It is a mark of how important VR has become in that field that The Wild is one of the top tools overall. As well as designing homes and offices, a number of clients are using The Wild to create “experiential” retail spaces, including Adidas.

You might also be surprised not to see Altspace listed here, but so far Microsoft has retained the consumer-centric social focus to Altspace, so we haven't included it as an enterprise tool - but if we did it would be #1, with approximately double the search traffic of the top ranked enterprise tool. Speaking of Microsoft, and the other major enterprise software providers, it is only Microsoft (with the acquisition of Altspace) and Cisco (which launched Cisco Spark for VR) who have made any moves so far in terms of addressing VR remote working. If this technology starts to become commonplace, will some of these tools become acquisition targets?

The full report is available for download, free for clients of Strategy Analytics VR research program, or available for individual purchase.

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