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Immersive Technologies on the Rise in Pandemic Year 2 Developers are no longer trying to create quick-fix solutions to pandemic problems. Instead, they are now taking a more in depth look at these challenges and are trying to come up with longer-term solutions that will be beneficial to businesses even when we aren't in a pandemic.

By Tony Scherba

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Yagi Studio | Getty Images

2020 was a chaotic year that had us all relying even more on the technology we use to stay connected. This year is bound to (and already has) come with its own set of challenges, including the fact that we are entering year two of the pandemic. We've made a lot of adaptations to our day-to-day lives and many of these aren't going anywhere soon, if ever.

While I think most people have accepted the new normal, many are still holding on to the idea that life will return to how it was in 2019.

The truth is, though, many of the changes we've made during this pandemic are here to stay, especially in terms of technological advancements ... and they will continue to get better. We aren't destined to just stare at Zoom boxes for all eternity.

Because of the duration of this pandemic, developers are no longer trying to create quick-fix solutions to problems. A major way this is happening is by making more engaging and dynamic online experiences. In 2021, we'll begin seeing some much more interesting things happening online from better ways to shop, attend meetings and go to digital events (at Yeti we're even been working on some). It's a fun time to be building experiences online!

Here are three technologies on the rise as we engage more in digital first experiences:

Web sockets and real-time web

While web sockets and real-time web technology isn't new tech by any means, the ways in which people are creating more interactive experiences with it will continue.

Web sockets are the ability to have a two-way connection between a server and a browser as soon as something happens (ex: sending a message). As we build more social interactive web experiences as a result of the pandemic, this technology, while already popular, will really thrive.

We're going to see people do some really fun and creative things with real time communication out of necessity. Some fun interactive events we've seen leveraging these platforms include:

  • Gather. Gather has created a game-like experience where people can run around a room and interact with other users.
  • Google's Chrome Dev Summit. Google ran their Chrome Dev Summit on a real time platform that allowed you to "run around" like you were in a conference video game and interact with other attendees.

3D javascript

3D javascript, specifically three.js, is another technology that's been around a while but is just starting to hit its stride in performance on both mobile and desktop browsers. This javascript technology gives developers the power to create three-dimensional graphics, which add another layer of potential interactivity to web projects.

Judging by the amount of interest we at Yeti are getting from our prospective clients to create engaging and interactive web pieces, we think three.js is the right answer. More and more opportunities to build interactive 3D objects on this platform are arising. Online we're already starting to see a lot more of this technology popping up.

A few areas we see really benefiting from online 3d modelling are:

  • Education. Online education and remote learning is a huge topic of conversation. While reopening schools is a big priority, the reality is that remote learning is going to continue being important. Showing students things in a 3D world is going to make it all that much easier to educate. There's lots of work to be done, but some really interesting examples of three.js being used for educational purposes include Pioneer and Weedensenteret.

  • Ecommerce. With fewer in-store experiences where people can interact with products, retail has a lot to benefit from the web being more 3D. This way, people can interact with products or just have a fun experience to learn more about the brand and build a connection before buying. Some examples of retailers exploring this are:
    • Chartogne-Taillet Champagne
    • Gucci
  • Entertainment. Games have long been one of the only reasons we would use online 3D libraries, but now games are moving beyond that. We saw several big annual conferences in 2020 add a 3D javascript layer to their entirely digital events, which allowed attendees to explore a world and interact. We're now seeing these 3D worlds pop up for gyms, conferences and right now, we are working on building some for universities and charity fundraisers.

Virtual reality (VR)

We've been excited about VR for a while, as I believe there is so much opportunity for incredible technology to be developed. While we, as a software development firm, have been experimenting with VR for many years, VR is still very much experiential and not going to be mainstream anytime soon. There are many barriers to entry with widespread adoption to VR, most notably, price point for VR devices.

However, given our current state of constant separation, it's a tool that can really help bring businesses together in unique (and fun!) ways. We have been experimenting with ways to create and collaborate using this platform, but here are some straightforward ways businesses of all shapes and sizes could use VR:

  • Workshops. Whiteboarding and interactive communication is always what makes client kick off calls and day-long client workshops so interactive and beneficial. VR allows you to have these kick off calls and meetings without leaving your respective cities. It's still a bit clunky but apps like altspace, bigscreen or Spatial are working on these problems and they will only get better. At some point in the future it might not make sense to travel to these workshops when you can just put on a headset.
  • Company events. We at Yeti were really bummed about not being able to have our annual Christmas party this year. So instead of spending lots of money on food, drinks and entertainment, we sent every employee a VR headset. That way we could have a virtual Christmas party. We were able to get everybody together to play paintball in RecRoom. (Very Silicon Valley, we know, but it was a blast!)
  • Training. Training has become one of those incredibly difficult things to do while socially distanced. VR helps bridge that gap. Especially as teams continue to stay remote, even after the pandemic, VR training will be a great way for teams to still ensure employees are properly trained even if they are miles apart. Furthermore, it's a great way to ensure training is standardized across the board. Multiple benefits for HR teams make this a potential trend that could last.

If I could put one word to the challenges this pandemic has brought on, I'd have to pick "exhausting." When it comes to digital experiences, we are all exhausted from being constrained to our tiny boxes on Zoom, exhausted from constantly having connection issues, and exhausted from trying to attend virtual events and conferences in hopes of inspiration only to have the event fall flat.

But we're entering a fairly exciting period where we will start to truly see digital experiences and events that are thoughtful and well-executed. Those will be here to stay even after the pandemic and we're excited to see the tech that is developed this year!

Tony Scherba

President and Founding Partner at Yeti

Tony Scherba is the President and a Founding Partner of Yeti LLC, a product-focused development and design studio in San Francisco. Scherba has helped launch new software products, reaching millions of people for high-growth startups, famous musicians and Fortune 500 companies.

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