Editorial: The Wall Street Journal Looks at Breakroom and Other Virtual Office Spaces as an Emerging Business Trend

Yesterday, in an article titled Miss Your Office? Some Companies Are Building Virtual Replicas, the American financial newspaper The Wall Street Journal took a look at a current trend: businesses setting up virtual office spaces for their employees who are working remotely because of the pandemic:

Stay-home orders and the shuttering of workplaces have given corporate employees some respite from getting dragged into time-wasting water-cooler conversations.

But some companies and their employees don’t want to leave everything about the office behind, it turns out, and are replicating their offices in “SimCity”-like simulations online.

And, among the companies that WSJ reporter Katie Deighton spoke to was Sine Wave Entertainment, the makers of Sinespace and Breakroom:

Sine Wave Entertainment Ltd. last month introduced Breakroom, a virtual-world product for remote workforces. It can accommodate all-hands meetings, secure one-on-ones and document sharing. Clients of the product include Virgin Group Ltd. and Torque Esports Corp.

Many customers initially assume they will recreate their offices, then realize they can make tweaks that would be impossible in the real world, said Sine Wave CEO Rohan Freeman.

“We spend our lives wishing we were working in open, sunny campuses with butterflies outside,” Mr. Freeman said. “Here you can realize that dream.”

Although clients can use Breakroom to create their office utopia, the platform also enables real-world elements such additional privileges for senior staff. In Sine Wave’s own virtual world, senior members can lock the boardroom, which is located on top of a hill overlooking the rest of the office.

A meeting in Breakroom (source: WSJ)

The Wall Street Journal article is a signal that corporate America—and indeed, businesses in countries around the world—are increasingly interested in virtual worlds. As the saying goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats“. I predict that Breakroom and a host of competing YARTVRA* firms are going to see a continuing boom in interest and inquires as the coronavirus pandemic drags on.

*YARTVRA is an acronym I coined that stands for Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual Reality App, which I am still hoping will catch on!


This blogpost is sponsored by Sinespace, and was written in my role as an embedded reporter for this virtual world (more details here). 

Nathie Looks at YARTVRA Apps: Nineteen Virtual Reality Apps for Remote Work and Education

Yes, I am still on my little one-man crusade to make the acronym YARTVRA a thing!

For those of you who are new to my blog, YARTVRA is short for Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual Reality App, that is, any social VR platform primarily intended for business use, to bring together people who may be working remotely into a shared virtual office space.

Nathaniël de Jong (a.k.a. Nathie) is a well-known Dutch YouTube influencer with over 558,000 subscribers, who often posts review videos of the latest and greatest VR hardware and software on his channel. A couple of days ago he decided to take a look at, yes, YARTVRA. Obviously, this market segment has received a lot of attention lately because of the global public health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which is probably why Nathie decided to make and release this video.

Nathie actually manages to squeeze no less than 19 different platforms into this 20-minute video, which unfortunately means that he only talks about each platform in a very brief and general sort of way for about minute, before he promptly moves on to the next one.

After a while, the relentless succession of all the look-alike business-oriented YARTVRAs, in particular, tends to overwhelm rather than inform. (ENGAGE still manages to stand out from the crowd in this video, though. And Oxford Medical Simulation definitely gives me some rather creepy uncanny valley vibes.)

Oxford Medical Simulation (image taken from their website)

Nathie appears to have taken as his starting point the recent Road to VR article, 34 VR Apps for Remote Work, Education, Training, Design Review, and More, and, much like the article, he breaks the various platforms down into four groups as follows (with links to their websites, courtesy of the credits in his YouTube video, and also links to where I have written about the products previously on this blog):

Team Collaboration and Presentation Platforms
– MeetinVR https://meetinvr.net/ (which I blogged about here)
– Glue https://glue.work/ (which I blogged about here)
– Connec2 https://connec2.nl/en/ (which is new to me)
– MeetingRoom https://meetingroom.io/ (which I blogged about here)
– Dream https://dreamos.com/ (which I blogged about here)
– VSpatial https://www.vspatial.com/ (which I blogged about here)

Social VR Platforms (those which Nathie thinks could, at least theoretically, be repurposed for business use)
– AltspaceVR https://altvr.com/ (blogged here)
– Bigscreen https://www.bigscreenvr.com/ (blogged here)
– Mozilla Hubs https://hubs.mozilla.com/ (blogged here)
– Facebook Horizon (currently in closed alpha testing, and a non-business-oriented product, so I’m rather mystified as to why Nathie chose to include it in his overview; blogged about here)
– VTime XR https://vtime.net/ (blogged about here)

Education and Training Platforms
– ENGAGE https://engagevr.io/ (which I blogged about here)
– Oxford Medical Simulation https://oxfordmedicalsimulation.com/ (which I blogged about here)
– Rumii https://www.dogheadsimulations.com/rumii (which I blogged about here)
– Acadicus https://acadicus.com/ (which I blogged about here)
– Wonda VR https://www.wondavr.com/ (which I blogged about here)

Design, Creation, and Prototyping Platforms
– Sketchbox https://www.sketchbox3d.com/creation (which I have not yet covered)
– The Wild https://thewild.com/ (blogged here)
– Softspace https://www.softspace.io/ (which is also new to me)

So between Nathie’s video and the Road to VR article, I now have a whole bunch of new YARTVRA to explore! Expect more blogposts soon, to add more products to my ever-growing list of social VR platforms and virtual worlds.

Second Life Seeks to Capture Business from Nonprofits and Educational Institutions During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Many social VR platforms and virtual worlds are currently trying to woo business users who are unexpectedly forced to shift to support remote workers in the face of an unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.

Screen capture from Second Life’s new micro-website

Today, Linden Lab’s virtual world, Second Life, announced:

We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about how Second Life can help organizations, events, and conferences continue to safely and efficiently operate during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Many individuals and organizations are being affected by this unprecedented public health crisis, and we recognize that Second Life can provide an important and valuable way for people to stay in touch with their friends and co-workers amidst new social distancing protocols, mandated remote work requirements, and other precautionary measures.

One of the first things we’ve implemented to help is a reduction in pricing to a flat $99/month per region to qualified accredited nonprofit or educational institutions. Effective immediately, this limited-time price reduction is applicable to any new or added regions including renewals of existing regions.

Linden Lab has also announced that they are expanding their Second Life support, although no exact details were given in the blogpost.

As part of this new initiative, there is a new micro website and a detailed Second Life Work FAQ.

I think that this is quite a savvy move for Linden Lab to make, and the lowered sim costs might just entice a few non-profit and educational institutions to take a second look at Second Life. (I hope that they keep Sansar alive, for many of the same reasons. I now wonder what would have happened if Linden Lab had decided to keep Sansar going for just another six months or a year. A coronavirus-based boost might have kept the project going. Of course, we’ll never know for sure…)

Spinview: A Brief Introduction (Yet Another YARTVRA)

Yawn. Here we go again…

YARTVRA: Yet Another Remote Teamwork Virtual Reality App. 

And yet another boring, cookie-cutter corporate website where it appears the owners haven’t even bothered to swap out the lifeless, generic default clip art. And yet another platform which is only nebulously described by its company:

You can use Spinview’s social VR space to immerse your team in a real-world learning environment for effective and engaging training without them leaving their desks, let alone their city. In our environment up to 8 people can focus and communicate with each-other in real time. They can work together, train together, research, plan and more. You can create a workspace designed to encourage a culture of sharing without the cost and time taken to get people physically in the same office. With Spinview, 8 heads can easily be better than one.

Again, absolutely zero technical details of their platform, and no mention of which VR hardware is supported. Just a lot of handwaving, and a cookie-cutter contact form, complete with more uninspiring clipart and vague suggestions of possible corporate uses for the Spinview platform:

VRFocus reported in November 2018 that the company acquired Agority, another social VR platform I had never heard of before:

Spinview, a company that concentrates on VR for business use has purchased immersive social platform Agority as part of its continued expansion.

The aim of the purchase is to offer businesses a new way to communicate and collaborate, letting teams inhabit a virtual area together, even if they are miles apart.

And Spinview’s corporate blog has not been updated since October 2018 (no news of the acquisition). Since then, radio silence. Who knows what is going on behind the scenes. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Spinview, like all the other YARTVRA I have covered on this blog, is having some trouble signing up paying customers. The list of companies who want to sell VR products supporting remote workteams is getting rather ridiculously long (you can see a list of other YARTVRA platforms in this earlier blogpost).

Let me say this again: High Fidelity has already decided that there’s not enough corporate interest in a remote workteams app to continue operations, and they are essentially shutting down as of January 15th, 2020. If a company that has raised $72.9 million in venture capital and has an actual working platform can’t make it happen, companies that can’t even bother to keep their websites up-to-date and demonstrate to their potential customers that they have any sort of deliverable product are doomed to failure.