Spatial lets its enterprise customers use VR or mixed reality headsets to meet in virtual spaces. The company now plans to launch support for desktop web browsers, Android and iOS — open to all and free. That support means virtual meetings can include participants who do not have a headset. According to Spatial co-founder and chief executive Anand Agarawala, “in light of COVID, we’ve actually had an intense amount of demand — about a 1,000 percent increase.” He added that, unlike Zoom, “something like VR gives you that level of presence and personification.”
Wired reports that, “being able to stand next to someone’s virtual avatar (closer than 6 feet!) and watch their hands gesticulate while they talk makes me feel more connected and focused” than a Zoom call. “It is, naturally, more engaging than staring at a grid of faces,” the reviewer adds.
Spatial, whose enterprise customers have spanned numerous industries, from Mattel to Pfizer, “was meant to serve as a way for those in offices to connect with remote team members around the globe.” Spatial head of business Jacob Lowenstein reported that its “primary use case has been 3D design collaboration.”
At Mattel, for example, designers iterate on designs in virtual meeting rooms and then “bring in the team from China to show off the final manufactured product as a 3D render to compare their work and suggest alterations.”
Lowenstein noted that, “other enterprise clients … are using Spatial as persistent war rooms, where people meet once or twice a week for virtual check-ins.” As a free platform open to all, Lowenstein said that people are already using it to teach seminars.
“Video chat is a tool that was basically good for two things: very personal conversations in small groups or big webinars where you don’t need to interact,” he said. “But for anything in between it breaks down, and that’s where we see Spatial really being a much more interactive and much more personal collaboration solution.”
Currently, the free version temporarily gives users “unlimited access to all the enterprise features,” but Agarawala said that, although a free version will always exist, once COVID-19 restrictions ease up, “limitations [such as 40-minute sessions and up to three saved project rooms] will be added back in.”
The Wired reviewer said a user can do a Google search for a low-poly 3D model if he or she doesn’t have that asset. “You can also write notes in Spatial, share your screen via the web app, upload presentations, and apparently, even have a virtual party,” he adds.
Because Spatial works best in AR or VR, it requires the not-insignificant cost of a headset, meaning “it’s not as accessible as Spatial might suggest, at least until the cost of VR and AR hardware comes down.” Spatial is, however, “working on iPhone and Android apps that will use the phone’s camera to recreate the virtual avatar experience at a more affordable and accessible level.”