Spatial began three years ago out of necessity for co-founders Anand Agarawala and Jinha Lee and business development head Jacob Lowenstein when they realized collaborating across state and country borders wasn't quite working.
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"We were spread out across San Francisco, New York and Missouri and we're like, 'hey, wouldn't it be cool, for you to be here with me?'" says Anand from his home in Toronto, Canada.
Together, the company Spatial was founded, which takes any workplace and turns it into a virtual reality experience. The average 2-dimensional Zoom meeting suddenly comes to life in 3D. Jacob demonstrates being able to put an arm around Anand and later the group high-fives.
It's all stunningly life-like and easy to navigate with a VR headset and hand controllers. So it's easy to understand the sudden surge in interest.
"It's nuts we have had over a thousand percent increase in Spatial in light of COVID," says Anand, as he explains how the company used to focus on Fortune 500 companies, but has since expanded to the everyday consumer and smaller businesses as well.
"Mattel uses us to operate 3D models, Pfizer uses it to plan factories for example. Doctors want to do tele-visits." says Anand.
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Using any augmented or virtual reality device headset and controllers, or, for a pared-down experience, just a computer camera, users are transformed into a multitude of workplaces. During our time together, the team is toggles between showing me how workers can collaborate on the layout of a cell-phone store and then a space to design and try on backpacks. They even created a dinosaur and demonstrate how to size a red sneaker to fit the t-rex.
"This really is like a holodeck from Star Trek we can add whatever you want!" beams Jacob.
The dinosaur more than satisfied one of Spatial's goals: to make users connect with each other on a deeper level.
"...We can inject a little magic into go into work. We keep hearing from our customers about video conference burn out they're feeling. It's the lack of personal attention when you're in a meeting," says Jacob. He went on to say, "No one wakes up and says 'I'm excited about the three hour meeting.'"
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Professor of economics at Stanford, Nicholas Bloom, says virtual reality can also solve some of the awkwardness and force feelings that come along with 2-dimensional group video chats.
"Zoom parties don't work where there are 30 people in the room and only one person is talking. it's just not natural." says professor Bloom.
Spatial is also aiming to save a user's time by cutting down on business trips which in turn save an employer's money.
"Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to go on a 20 hour business trip across the world just to have a face to face meeting? Companies are going to realize how much they're spending previously on travel just to put people in the same room with each other. They're also going to realize how much money they were spending on extraordinary office space." says Jacob.
As the cost of VR headsets keeps going down, currently ranging at several hundred dollars each, the growth of the virtual office is inevitable. But professor Bloom and the Spatial team acknowledge there will always be a need for in-person gatherings.
"The more we have virtual reality headsets the better but I still think we need to be in the office two days a week to see each other." says professor Bloom.
While there's clear value to being in the same room as your colleagues, just where and when is up to you.
Spatial is currently offering their enterprise version for free. To learn more about the company visit www.spatial.io
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