Innovation

5 tips for giving your colleagues a killer virtual reality demo

Here are some tips to ensure that those you work with have a good experience when trying VR in the office.

Image: Erin Carson/TechRepublic

There are a variety of ways that virtual reality finds its way into an organization. Sometimes, it's an assignment to find a relevant use, sometimes an employee who is really captivated by the technology brings it in and suggests a way the company can adopt it.

Whether you're the one tasked with making it work, or the one scheming up a reason to get it in the office, you might find yourself in the position of playing ambassador and introducing it to your coworkers or even managers.

Just recently, TechRepublic had an HTC Vive in the office. In the course of a week, I got to demo it for countless co-workers in both editorial and other functions at the company. Many would just wander over and hang around until I asked if they wanted to try it. Some folks even brought in their kids.

After having been on the receiving end of demos numerous times, I definitely got a different perspective being the one giving them.

Here are a few tips for introducing your co-workers to VR.

1. Gauge what they know, prep them

It's always worth asking what a person has and hasn't tried. If a person barely even knows what virtual reality is, give a quick explanation, make sure they understand it's going to fill their entire field of view, and give them a rough idea of the setup (even if you're about to put them through a basic tutorial). You'd be surprised how many people put on a headset, even Cardboard, and won't initially look around themselves. It's actually not a bad idea to remind them that they can look up, down, and behind.

By the same logic, though, if someone is familiar with the technology, you don't want to talk down to them, or stand there explaining how to adjust the head straps when they really don't need the extra guidance.

2. Keep an eye on them

When someone is trying out a VR experience, it can be tempting to set them up and just return to your job. What's especially true for first-timers is that they need someone watching them.

While some folks go into VR and stop engaging with you until they finish, others will ask questions about the experience, or even just want to talk about what's happening as it's happening. They might need help navigating, as well. Not everyone takes the approach to technology of clicking around until something works. They may need guidance.

Depending on the system, first-timers may need your help to stay safe. With the Vive, for example, not everyone has an easy time saying clear of the cable that comes out of the headset. Make sure the person you're demoing VR for doesn't get tangled and trip. Also, make sure they stay upright.

Even with something like Google Cardboard, people can lose balance for a split second and fall (one reason it's not a bad idea to start folks off in a seat for the Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, or Oculus Rift). For the Vive, one co-worker was playing a dungeon crawler game that involved sword-fighting with an animated skeleton and nearly tipped over. Mercifully, we caught him. Now, let's say your boss lands on his butt—that might not go so well for you.

3. Know your facts

People will have questions for you, especially if your demo is their first exposure to VR. In the interest of professionalism, have the answers for them. That can mean everything from the price of the headset and availability, to the specs of the phone or computer needed to run it. This also applies to being familiar enough with the user interface to help them navigate it. Chances are you won't be able to see the menu like they can, but be sure you can still support them from the outside.

4. Consider which apps are the best entry point

Everyone you introduce to VR will come to it with different tastes, preferences, and backgrounds regarding gaming. It doesn't make much sense to run everyone through the same experience. For the less experienced, or even the more reticent, I found that running through the basic Steam VR tutorial was helpful. It taught them about the chaperone walls (the boundaries that pop up letting the user know the bounds of the play space), as well as the different buttons and how to get to the menu.

For others, it was sufficient to give them a quick overview and set them up with an actual game to play—the tutorial started to bore them. There are some games that are pretty agreeable to everyone, like Job Simulator, which is a fun, highly interactive app that lets users do jobs like office worker or chef with a funny edge. For real novices, a passive experience like theBlu's Whale Encounter might be the perfect way to introduce VR's ability to communicate scale and proximity. Or, maybe they just want to start shooting stuff, and something like Space Pirate Trainer, an intense little game where the user shoots down flying enemy bots is the way to go.

5. Listen

When the headset comes off, there will be plenty of questions and opinions. Listen and make sure you're addressing them. Yes, VR is cool, but cool doesn't and shouldn't cut it for business adoption. Be sure you're hearing any concerns or ideas you're getting from colleagues as that will help you move plans forward.

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About Erin Carson

Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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