Reconnecting IRL: Mixed Reality the Next Phase of Networking?

As social media continues to dominate our lives, it seems more people are making friends online instead of “IRL” (in real life). We share pictures with the swipe of a finger. Find out what’s happening in our friends’ lives by scrolling. Make new friends with a “follow” or “like”. We prefer waving with an emoji over waving in reality. Why?

For those who might feel more nervous about IRL reactions than cyber, anonymity might feel comforting. But what happens when we live in a society that misses that element of human connection? How do we bring it back?

Part of its appeal might be the whole absence of face-to-face contact, but what happens when social media loses the whole “social” aspect? Aside from cyberbullying, social media contributes to an uptick in feelings of anxiety.And when networking is more about “follows” and “likes” instead of actually fostering real-life connections, how can businesses navigate this new world?

Mixed reality might offer a solution for the future of business networking. It allows all the freedom of movement in virtual reality while overlaying that over a physical space, like augmented reality allows.

Telepresence, the feeling of being in another location thanks to XR (AR/VR) technology. For example, if you wanted your boardroom meeting held on, say, Mars, telepresence is the feeling you are actually in space.

How does being on Mars help with business networking? Let’s go back a bit.

Telepresence. Ivan Misner Ph.D explains its utility this way. “People attach value to the feeling of physically sharing a space with another person”. There’s a reason why people coach others in business to stand up straight, or to look others directly in the eye and answer their handshake with a firm grip. Those are all signs of confidence, and that confidence can only really be emulated by a feeling of reality. People value the physical presence of another human being, and they gauge this in their interactions. Is the other person confident enough? Polite? How do they carry themselves within that space?

Social media takes networking to an abstract realm of profile pictures and LinkedIn posts. But, by telepresence, we can bring it back to a feeling of real-life with all the convenience of technology. Sharing a space without actually having to take the pains of traveling costs there or limited mobility if someone cannot walk with ease.

VR already has business conference apps developed. Speaking from a little closer to home and where I work in XR-tech/digital immersive brand experiences in 1871, Jaunt recently purchased this Chicago based telepresence company (Personify).But can we bring mixed reality into this? For example, having somebody’s avatar appear directly in front of us in our workspace in seconds, that ease is so incredibly valuable when our time is limited. Using mixed reality to engage and network as though we’re physically there with a potential client/employer/employee? Priceless.

*written with Sophia Whittemore