Sine Wave Entertainment, which sought to build a Second Life-style experience in virtual reality with Sinespace, has launched its Breakroom 3D social hub for remote teams as a way to counter the divisions forced upon us by the coronavirus. It’s like taking video conference meetings to a new level, for anyone with VR, PC web, or mobile hardware.
Virtual reality companies like Sine Wave see an opportunity to pivot because of the coronavirus. They see the boring Zoom meetings that we’re all forced to endure. And the VR companies believe they can provide an experience that is a lot more interesting and immersive. Spaces recently announced something similar where you can attend meetings in VR.
Breakroom enables remote teams to meet, work, and hang out together in secure, shared virtual spaces. It combines video conferencing, meeting rooms, casual games, live events, and multiplayer hangouts. You can participate via webcam video or build an animated avatar to wander around the world. It works today on the PC, Mac, Android, and tethered VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
The London-based company sees Breakroom as a way for remote teams to engage with each other.
“When we went into lockdown in the U.K., we immediately began hearing about the mental health issues in terms of people being isolated,” said Sine Wave Entertainment CEO Rohan Freeman, in an interview with VentureBeat. “Some people are used to working at home, but for a lot of people, it really isn’t like that. That absence of a social graph is why we started to build the product. The goal is to have all of the functionality that you would get from a standard conferencing like Zoom or GoToMeeting or whatever else. It has chat and voice over IP and desktop sharing and webcam sharing and so on and so forth. And then, alongside that, you have all of these other activities that people from within one organization can come and do together.”
I saw it in a demo, and it was like being in a VR game. In one scene, animated characters sat in chairs around a table, in the middle of a town square decorated with lots of colorful objects. There were also some people tuning in via video, as you can see in the top picture.
Pivoting fast to Breakroom
Sine Wave also has its Sinespace virtual world and building tools. But it moved to knock out Breakroom as soon as it realized the opportunity that the coronavirus was creating, Freeman said.
With more and more teams working from home — most recently in response to the coronavirus — major organizations are turning to online services that can replace brick and mortar office functionality. Freeman said some big companies are already using it, including tech companies and banks.
But standard conferencing and collaboration tools are not built to meet social and wellness needs. Breakroom provides the video conferencing and media sharing tools you would expect from any collaboration platform, and combines it with a colorful, welcoming online world filled with team-building exercises, brainstorming sessions, casual games, competitions, live events, office parties, break-time meetups, and everyday staff chitchat.
“You can provide the water cooler moments, where the conversations aren’t about a specific meeting or a specific goal,” Freeman said. “You can have a chat with someone even though you don’t have a specific meeting with them. These accidental engagements are essential to maintaining the culture and the ability of people to have a sense of who they are. Video conferencing systems weren’t built for this kind of experience.”
He added, “Our goal is to provide a space where all that can happen, where teams can stay motivated, stay together, keep the company culture alive, keep their sense of self alive. And have a sense of community and togetherness. You can do a presentation on a whiteboard. You can walk over to the other side of the park and grab a coffee.”
Business owners, executives, and HR directors can go here for more details and to request a demo. (Breakroom is available free to schools and at a 50% discount to registered charities.) Anyone can demo Breakroom for PC, Mac, and Android tablets for free here at Sinespace.com/breakroom.
Freeman said that virtual worlds also increase memory retention (because humans think and imagine in three dimensions). And he said a social virtual world also provides fun, safe ways to enhance team spirit and to sustain institutional culture and help build positive momentum.
Built completely on Sinespace, a verified solutions provider for Unity, Breakroom was built by a team with years of experience developing virtual worlds for numerous enterprise clients including IBM, the U.S. Department of Defense, NATO, and numerous academic institutions and private companies.
Breakroom is an off-the-shelf solution that makes meeting in VR easy. It has features such as a town square hangout that can be branded. It also has a presentation amphitheater, private and public meeting rooms, a full suite of communication tools (VOIP, IM, and in-world email), videoconferencing, media and desktop sharing, and regular live social events including music, cinema, pub quizzes, and seminar sessions.
It also has numerous casual game regions and game tables, in-world building and scene editing, mature APIs for integrating other enterprise applications, and HIPAA (health care law) compliant regions for one-to-one therapy sessions.
To create 3D experiences with low lag and accessibility on tablets and non-gaming laptops, Breakroom uses assets from Synty Studios, a production house founded by veterans of WETA Digital which specializes in beautiful but low-poly models. Freeman said there are more than 100,000 assets available for Breakroom out of more than 2 million available for Sinespace. Sine Wave has 30 people on staff.