HTC launches Vive Sync app to let remote teams collaborate in VR

has launched a virtual reality (VR) collaboration and meeting app for enterprises, as the Taiwanese tech company looks to capitalize on the rapid shift to remote-working brought about by the COVID-19 crisis.

Sync, as the new app is called, was first debuted back in 2018, and HTC has been piloting the service with a number of clients in the intervening months. Today, Sync is being made available for free as part of an open beta program for all companies.

The launch comes as as remote-working tools have surged in popularity over the past couple of months due to social-distancing measures designed to tackle the global pandemic. Yesterday, Microsoft announced that its Teams collaborative software had passed 75 million daily active users, up 70% on the 44 million it had announced less than 2 months ago. Video-conferencing platform Zoom has also seen its user base jump from 10 million in December to more than 200 million in March, while Google Meet has now passed 100 million daily active users and is adding 3 million new users every day.

With Vive Sync, HTC is looking to tap a similar market to that of Teams, Zoom, and Meet, but with added engagement and interactivity, which will be vital for many teams that are looking to replicate a physical working environment as much as possible. HTC exec David Sapienza said that the future of work is “rapidly becoming more global and more remote” and that VR will serve as a bridge into this new world.

Vive Sync also integrates with Microsoft OneDrive to make it easier to share files virtually, such as PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, videos, and images which can be displayed on a giant screen.

Other notable features include speech-to-text, which allow participants to take notes through verbal comments, while they can also take screenshots of what they see on-screen to refer back to later. There is also 3D drawing and annotation tools, to replicate a real-life whiteboarding session.

Using a separate mobile app, called Sync Avatar Creator, users can create their own personalized avatars from scratch too, and when integrated with their profile on Vive Sync they will essentially have a full life-like digital representation of themselves. Moreover, if the user adopts HTC Vive controllers, and uses hardware that supports eye-tracking such as the Vive Pro Eye, then there is potential for more meaningful “interpersonal communications” covering body language and eye movements.

While the COVID-19 crisis could be perfect time for VR to emerge from the gaming realm to be embraced wholesale by businesses, buying and maintaining hundreds or thousands of VR headsets will be a resource-intensive endeavor — so we’re not likely to see this change happen overnight. However, HTC is clearly keen to capitalize on what it sees as the start of a transition to virtual, immersive meetings.

For now, Vive Sync is only compatible with Vive VR hardware, including standalone headsets and ones that require a PC connection. In the future, however, HTC said it will introduce support to other devices including Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Quest, and Microsoft’s mixed reality HoloLens headsets.

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