Do we really need to have a meeting?

Meetings in the workplace are unavoidable, no matter how much you wish they would be. How many times have you found yourself in a situation where you’ve been called to a meeting only to find out that what is discussed in said meeting could have been handled with a brief phone call or email? Think any time Michael Scott makes everyone go to the conference room for essentially nothing in “The Office”. On the other hand, how many of you have found yourself on a conference call or video chat and felt that an in-person meeting would have actually been more productive? I’m sure many of you have been here, but this can be difficult to do when you have team members working remotely or you’re working with people at other branches of your company on the other side of the country or half way around the world. This is where Spatial comes into play. 

There’s a 98% chance that this meeting was unnecessary.

Spatial is a company that was created in 2016 that provides companies with an app that utilizes AR in order to hold virtual meetings.  The way that the application works is that all members of a team, no matter how near or far away, are able to participate in an “in-person” meeting through the use of AR glasses like Microsoft HoloLens. All members of the meeting start off by taking a photo of themselves, which is then turned into an avatar that takes their place in the meeting when they are working remotely. The avatar is portrayed from the waist up and has arms and legs that function as they would if the team member were there in person. 

Now that all members have their avatar, they join a virtual workspace that allows for all of them to exist in the same “room” and work as if they were meeting in a conference room down the hall. In these workspaces, each member is able to share and collaborate on a given project or task at hand. They are able to share information from their physical location and drop it into the workspace and have it displayed for everyone to see and work with in real time. For example, someone might have a spread sheet providing information on a target demographic and someone else might have the most recent artwork for a campaign or product that needs to proofed that they want to share with the other members. All that they have to do in order to share it is to drop it into the workplace and it will appear on the virtual walls of the space for all to see. Here they are able to easily talk through the information or observe the artwork while being able to better understand and see what the others in the group are thinking. 

Here’s a quick video to give you a glimpse of how Spatial works:

Often times meetings taking place over conference call and video chat can make for difficult work. With a conference call it can be hard to tell whether or not the people on the other end of the line are giving the conversation their full attention or if they are only partially focused and trying to work on other tasks at the same time. While video chats give you the opportunity to actually see the other members of the group and can provide the opportunity of information sharing through screen sharing, it still isn’t the optimal way to meet. Much like a conference call, it can be difficult to tell if they are paying attention to the others in the chat or if they have other work pulled up on their computer of are just scrolling through a Buzzfeed article about the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Spatial understands the difficulties that come along with these types of meetings and is working to create an optimal platform that will not only be better for the individuals participating, but for the company as a whole. 

While I don’t imagine seeing Spatial pop up in companies all over right away, I do believe it is a technology that many will invest in in the not so distant future. Sure, purchasing enough HoloLens glasses for a team to utilize will be somewhat costly, but I feel that the benefits outweigh the costs. By implementing the use of Spatial, companies could ultimately cut down on costs of having to fly employees to different locations in order for them to meet in person with other members of their group, since an in-person meeting is almost inevitable when it comes to working on a major project. The use of Spatial would also allow for these members to meet “in-person” on a far more regular basis which could lead to a more efficient finishing of projects.

The next time you walk into a meeting or jump on a conference call or video call, just think of how much easier and interactive Spatial could make it. I wouldn’t expect to see this in your workplace next week, but I’d definitely recommend keeping an eye out for it and seeing if it takes off and makes waves in how we traditionally meet and interreact with one another.

11 comments

  1. Spatial sounds like a super neat and relevant technology. When you were describing it, I imagined the hologram meeting or virtual video conferencing from Captain America and the Avengers movies. This reminds me of an article about how Silicon Valley is disrupting itself. Silicon Valley is facilitating the creation of amazing remote workplace technologies. While working from home has become more popular, this tech takes it one step further and allows people to choose their “home base” or city they live in. Remote workplace technology has the potential to change the way teams operate and how companies’ are structured. It will be exciting to see early movers adopt and implement Spatial.

  2. Spatial reminds me of the tech used in the Kingsman Movie and almost any movie about a discrete organization for that matter. I definitely agree that this technology can make a big difference in terms of being able to really bridge distance in the work force. I interned as a consultant last summer and these large group calls are just an everyday thing. I’m not sure a lot of managers would buy into it though, because, at least in my experience, the call’s organized would over include people just to cover themselves, preventing further blame. In turn, their manager sits by the phone idly listening just to help resolve any team conflict. In short, yes I think that Spatial will make these conference calls more engaging and ideally more productive. However, I think it will take a certain type of team that is actively engaged in meetings to really appreciate this kind of tech. Although, maybe the tech itself could be a way of changing the behavior. But, like we discussed in class last week, a manager sort of does what they want, because they are your manager, and no bit of tech would necessarily change that.

  3. While I have to admit the Spatial video creeped me out a little bit with the avatars, I do think that this technology can really help keep people engaged in meetings, therefore making them more efficient. Nothing is more frustrating when you are trying to get a point across and you have no idea what other people are thinking or doing, so I think this technique will help keep everyone on task and focused. When everyone pays attention to what is being said, ideally meetings can wrap up quickly without any miscommunication. Body language is also super important when discussing an issue or presenting new ideas, so Spatial can help resolve this problem since you cannot see other people when you are on a phone call. I think it will take a while for this type of technology to become widespread, but I think Spatial opens up the conversation of how we can efficiently have meetings. Great post!

  4. Having meetings about meetings is my favorite. There is definitely a huge difference on people’s attention spans when their is a video call versus a conference call. Spatial seems to bring these two together. I like the possibility of spatial in the near future, and I can see it being beneficial especially for those who work remotely. Even better…I could see a spatial interaction between customers and employees; take a customer that would like to speak with their financial representative for example. Going thru different investment options through spatial would be great for customers. Great addition throwing the video into the blog!

  5. This is a very cool technology that I would love my company to adopt. I work on a team that is spread across the world and technology like this would most certainly help brainstorming meetings and other collaborative meetings. We do have teleprsence rooms that are used for meetings like these at my company, but this does not measure up to VR. My only concern would be cost of the product and how to supply equipment such as these to remote workers, things tend to get lost when you send stuff home with people in my experience. I would love to know more about this tech so cool!

  6. I learned the hard way at my first internship this past summer that corporate America is inherently inefficient! I might be jaded as a student, but when I have x hours of work to get done, you better believe I am not taking more than x hours to do it. Meanwhile, people spend 8 hours in a cubicle accomplishing 3 hours of work, and then complain when they have to stay late. It baffled me. Also meetings I associated with a break. We spent more time chatting and catching up, then accomplishing anything. While Spatial feels a little futuristic now, I can easily see this being the norm a few years down the road.

  7. This is such a cool tech! It’s like Wii Miis for work! I will say that the “do we really need to have a meeting” problem is more about time in my experience – like I could have read an email for 30 seconds instead of sitting here for 30 minutes. So I am eager for the day when there is some kind of AI tech that can tell your boss to just send an email instead. However, like you mentioned this is great for working remotely or bringing together offices or companies who are partnered internationally instead of paying for costly and frequent travel plans.

  8. The technology behind this is very cool. Definitely going to change how meetings are held in the future. However, I don’t know whether many companies are actually going to be ok with using this anytime soon over skype or zoom. The avatars honestly really creep me out…definitely on the creepy side of the creepy-cool line. And even though the technology can make useful meetings more effcient, I still think we are going to continue to get stuck in meetings (virtual or otherwise) that could have just been taken care of with an email.

  9. Very interesting stuff, but I agree with some of the other comments that it might be hard to get buy in from most managers (today at least). I agree that it seems like it will make video and conference calls more efficient and engaging, and can help cut costs of organizing workforces across geographic areas, but it does seem like a real face to face meeting might still run smoother. I think the value proposition is much lower in circumstances when the whole team can easily meet for a few minutes in person. I interned as a consultant this summer, and we had constant check-ins with our teams and clients – I think there is something to be said about truly talking to each other face to face in these situations and sharing progress in this way. However, if this isn’t possible the value this technology adds gets much higher, and hey, maybe this will drastically cut down on the amount of travel consultants need to do to get to client sites in the future…

  10. Interesting topic! I actually think in-person meetings can be very productive as long as they are run by a solid team leader. I think as technology continues to expand, there will be more opportunities to have meetings virtually that are even more effective. I think time allotment of meetings is an important thing to consider – 30 mins vs. 60 vs. 90. It all depends on the objective and the participants. At my last firm, the only way to move decisions along was to have in-person meetings so again there will always be a need with a delicate balance.

  11. Love this, thanks for sharing! Meetings like minority report seem like they could be a cross between awesome and cumbersome….but for now, let’s focus on the awesome. For certain applications and business functions, I can see how this would be super helpful. To share ideas in a virtual reality space would really help foster creativity and move things along faster. Additionally, I think that a lot of creativity is helping others understand your ideas, and this seems like a great way to get them across. My concern here is that the tech is slightly ahead of where we are capability wise and will only get in the way and hinder the flow of a meeting. However, as tech evolves, I am sure this will be the dominant way we attend meetings in the future.

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