Can Virtual Reality Reveal Team Preferences?

Identifying natural team preferences, also known as team roles, is of great importance in order to develop an effective high performing team. It neutralises intra team conflict through a better understanding of individual motives and behaviours and allows the team to assign tasks more effectively to play to the team’s strengths.

In order to recognize these natural team roles, virtual reality can be utilised and this leverages a well known disinhibition effect, allowing individuals to naturally express themselves and reveal their group working preferences completely and subconsciously. In turn, this increases mutual understanding between colleagues, increasing effectiveness within teams and the work environment.


What are Team Preferences and why are they Important?

Team preferences can also be referred to as team roles and refers to the finite range of useful behaviours which contribute to team performance, which can be grouped into a set number of related clusters. These can be patterns of behaviour that characterises an individual’s behaviour to another in facilitating the progress of a team. This then allows a team to benefit from self-knowledge and adjust their behaviour according to the demands made by the external situation (Belbin, 2004). Overall, this will enable a productive, effective team to be developed and formed.


Belbin Framework

Belbin (2004) conducted research in order to investigate what behaviours make teams the most successful, concluding that most successful teams were made up of a diverse mix of behaviours. His philosophy is about celebrating and making the most of individual differences, which can work together effectively. Identifying team roles also allows for the articulation and use of their strengths to the best effect, as well as the awareness of their weaknesses which enables efforts to mitigate these. In most instances, people have a number of preferred team roles or behaviours that they naturally display, however, often they display manageable roles. These roles are less natural but can be assumed if required in order to fulfil an objective. However, the most detrimental are when individuals are force to assume least preferred roles, which require a large amount of effort and cause a poor outcome. Therefore, it is imperative to identify individuals natural team roles and work with those who possess roles that are complementary to one’s own.

In order to establish these high-performing teams, Belbin created the Nine Belbin Team Roles. The first Team Role identified is Recourse Investigator, where the individual uses their inquisitive nature to find ideas to bring back to the team. They are often enthusiastic, develop contacts, and explore opportunities. The second Team Role is Team Worker, where these individuals use their versatility and co-operative nature to identify the work that is required to then complete it on behalf of the whole team. Next is the Co-ordinator, who focus on the team’s objectives and delegate work appropriately and are often mature, confident, and have clear goals. The fourth Team Role is Plant, which identifies those who are highly creative and expert problem solvers. Following on from this is the fifth Team Role of Monitor Evaluator, who are logical and make impartial judgements based upon the best strategy. The sixth category is Specialist, which refers to those considered to be an expert in their subject area, providing specialist knowledge and skills. Shaper is the seventh category, and defines those who provide the necessary drive to ensure that the team stays motivated and focused. The eight category is Implementer, which are those who plana workable strategy and implement this as efficiently as possible. They are often practical, reliable, and efficient. Finally, the ninth category is the Completer Finisher, who are most effective at the end of tasks and scrutinise the work for errors. They may also be known as perfectionists as they polish the work to the highest possible standards.


How can Virtual Reality Reveal Team Roles?

Virtual reality allows for a safe, virtual space in which the individuals feel that they are in contact with their colleagues, but with a layer of invisibility and anonymity. This layer of invisibility can account for the Online Disinhibition Effect, which is the lack of restraint one feels when communicating online compared to communicating in person due to the feeling of safety (Suler, 2004). This means that individuals behave in more of a natural way, allowing for expression of themselves which they may not feel comfortable doing in a face to face environment. In turn, this can aid to identifying their natural team role which may not be possible in real world environments as they may be controlling their normal behaviour and running a large amount of self monitoring.

Additionally, virtual reality has increased immersion compared to traditional face to face team builds or virtual screen meetings. This has helped to combat the negative, mundane stereotypes which have been associated with traditional team building exercises which can cause poor engagement between colleagues. Due to this, the problems of pseudo teams can develop, which has been seen to increase levels of work errors and a decrease in productivity (West & Lyubovnikova, 2012). However, due to the innovative method of virtual reality, individuals have been seen to engage more in the activity due to the pioneering, fun aspects, therefore allowing for those quieter colleagues to come out of their shell. This allows for a more natural expression of the person, which in turn reveals their natural team preferences and helps to establish understanding with one another.


How does Virtual Reality Experiences Utilise these Findings?

Here at Virtual Reality Experiences, we implement virtual reality collaboration tools, which help to combat communication and geographical barriers to enhance immersion and reveal individuals natural team preferences. This has allowed for the development of a more effective workforce as a greater understanding of individuals team preferences has been achieved. In turn, an increase in mutual understanding and respect occurs, creating a more enjoyable, productive environment for all members of the team.

Belbin, M. (2004). Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail (2nd ed.). Butterworth Heinemann.
Suler, J. (2004). The Online Disinhibition Effect. CYBERPSYCHOLOGY & BEHAVIOR, 7(3), 1–7.
West, M. A., & Lyubovnikova, J. (2012). Real Teams or Pseudo Teams? The Changing Landscape Needs a Better Map. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 5(1), 25–28.

Oculus Quest review – No Strings Attached

With the increased competition from HTC and Microsoft, it was up to pioneers Oculus to spearhead the way into the next step for Virtual Reality, I believe they’ve done more than a serviceable job with the new Oculus Quest, released in late May. Starting at £399 for the 64GB model and £499 for the 128GB, it’s safe to say that it’s more than affordable for the average consumer in respect to the alternatives of having both the PC and headset, but how does it perform?

The headset itself is sleek and beautifully crafted, the matte black finish on the front giving a very smooth feel to the device, with 4 cameras on the front as there are no external sensors with this offering, as well as the tried and tested stretch mechanism, it’s a good looking piece of equipment for sure. A tough fabric protects the users face and eyes from the plastic casing and I found this to be very comfortable, even during extended sessions. Controller wise the Quest is very similar to previous Oculus iterations, the main difference I could spot was the sensor loop having been moved from the underside of the controller to now sitting on top. I feel as though this gives a good balance to the controller and much less risk of getting a finger or knuckle caught inside during intense moments. The now capacitive buttons and triggers also allow for a little extra immersion, however, I have yet to find a practical use for this in any of the applications I used, maybe future titles will capitalise on this and give us some new and interesting ways to interact with the game worlds they create.

With load times for games being less than 10 seconds and the OS booting in less than 5, there is no worry that the mobile chipset powering the device is sufficient, apps run smoothly and even during hectic or power-hungry segments in games such as Robo-Recall or Beat Sabre, I was unable to notice any slowdown or frame rate drops. The only difference I could see was the slightly lower resolution as compared to the beefier, PC-powered counterpart, but this is to be expected and when immersed will not take away from the experiences on offer. There is still, however, a graininess to the screen that plagues all of the Oculus devices, while at a decent resolution, the graphical fidelity of some sections suffers, mostly when visualising objects at a distance. Despite this, I was very impressed with the performance of the console and unless you are a stickler for having the best possible graphics, the Oculus Quest is a very tantalising choice.

The user experience is also a very simple one. From setting play boundaries to loading an app, all it takes is the press of a button. Nothing is hidden behind menus or button combinations. The whole experience is laid very bare for all to see. A truly easy and enjoyable way to pick up and play.

While the claim of being a completely wireless experience holds true for the Quest, a drawback to this is then having to be concerned with the battery, while okay for a quick session, any wishes for extended play will be quickly diminished. On average, I was able to pull around 2 hours on a single charge for the headset, which is considerably less than its main portable competitor, the Nintendo Switch. While this can be boosted with the use of an external battery pack, if you are looking to use the system for a social setting then you may come into some difficulty. The charge time to fully charged is around an hour. For me, this is the main drawback of the system and something that I pray is addressed in future iterations of the system. The AA battery run controllers however will easily run for around 12 hours.

The worth of a console lies very heavily in the choice of titles available, to which the Quest delivers in heaps, boasting a launch lineup of 50+ titles there will be enough to keep even the most dedicated of players occupied for a while to come. Standouts include the tried and tested Robo-Recall, Beat Sabre and Super-Hot, the latter I can only describe my experience of playing on the Quest as INCREDIBLE! The wireless nature if the device allows for a more deep and in-depth view into the virtual world than I have experienced prior. Other offerings, like the ultra-immersive ‘Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series – Episode 1’, left me aching for more sabre-swinging, force-wielding action, truly a must-play for fans of Star Wars and story-driven games alike. The Quest is littered with so many gems that it started to feel like the console is worth its weight in precious stones. I found the system to have more than enough memory for my needs, using the 64GB model, with every application owned being installed (around 18), the system was not full and had more than enough space for many more games. This is fantastic as consumers will have a variety of applications available at any one time.

As well as this you are more than welcome to take advantage of the video streaming capabilities, with streaming available to Facebook direct from the headset. If you wish to see gameplay on a TV, however, you will require some extra equipment, either a Chromecast to a TV or using a mobile device and the Oculus app. Both are easy to set up and with minimal visual lag, it’s a great way to share screens.

Overall the console offers a big step in the right direction, while still being essentially a first-generation VR console, the freedom on offer greatly surpasses any limitations to graphical fidelity or play time due to battery size. The wide array of applications will give even the pickiest of gamers something to enjoy. I can wholeheartedly recommend the Oculus Quest to anyone looking for an easy and relatively cheap VR experience, no strings attached.


Oculus Quest Has Arrived … And It’s A Game Changer

For too long now we have been waiting for a new innovation to launch VR into the mainstream, and let’s be honest, many of us were starting to give up hope.

Most people that have trialled the current crop of hardware will have had positive, enjoyable experiences, agreeing that the technology shows much potential, but are yet to be fully convinced. Why is that? What is putting them off from actually forking out on a headset?

Although cost will be a factor for a lot of consumers, others say that for a platform that is supposed to fully immerse the user in a virtual world, and give them a sense of freedom, it can often feel, well, restrictive. Because even when you can’t see anything from the real world when wearing the headset, you can’t shake the feeling that you’re going to accidentally trip over that wire you know is sticking out of your head.

Perhaps they’re lacking a PC with the right system requirements, or they’re not too keen on the idea of having additional external sensors placed around the room to prevent tracking problems. These are some of the main issues that VR hardware manufacturers have been struggling to overcome … until now.


All Together Now

Enter the brand new Quest headset from Oculus ­- arguably VR’s best chance yet of appealing to the masses. It’s an all-in-one system, so it doesn’t need to be played through a PC or other machine, and it’s all wireless.

It also comes with four wide-angle cameras built in as part of the new Insight tracking feature – no need for those extra sensors any more – while its six degrees of freedom means it can track your movements in – you guessed it – six directions: up, down, left, right, forwards and backwards. Because it automatically senses the space you’re in and adapts to it, the headset can be used in rooms of varying sizes with minimal setup.

Even so, some users will still feel a bit uneasy moving around too much in case they get too close to a real-world surface or object, which is why the Quest comes equipped with the same Guardian system as the Rift. This enables the wearer to draw out a boundary so they can avoid accidentally punching a wall or stubbing a toe on the sofa.

If you are planning on using it across a number of spaces then the Quest is capable of remembering the Guardian layouts for multiple rooms and recognising when you’ve moved from one to the other, eliminating the need to retrace the grid every time you boot up the system again.


A Touch of Class

Also similar to what came with the Rift are the new Touch controllers, although they’ve been moderated slightly with the Quest. Those familiar with the Rift design will notice that the tracking strips have moved from below the hands to above them. This is so it can be more easily picked up by the head-mounted cameras, and the effect on the accuracy of the tracking is extremely impressive.

This might be a standalone system, but that hasn’t resulted in efficiency being heavily sacrificed. The Quest really makes the most of its built-in Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, a chip that’s actually been around for a while and can be found in smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Despite its chip being a few years old now, the new headset is more than capable of running popular VR titles like Beat Saber and Robo Recall without a hitch, and you can be confident that the tech won’t let you down when lining up that winning serve on Sports Scramble – a new sports package that could just become the new Wii Sports if enough people get the chance to try it.

However, these games aren’t the most demanding in terms of performance. It remains to be seen how the system fares when it’s really put through its paces, and you can expect some of the real top-spec titles, which would probably be too much for the Quest to handle, to head to the PC-backed Rift instead. Still, its capabilities for a mobile device represent a real leap forward.

And the price for all this? The Quest comes with an RRP of £399, which is the same as the new Rift S headset from Oculus – an improved and upgraded version of the original Rift – released on the same day (May 21st). The Rift S may be a preferable option for those with a high-end PC, but for those who don’t and have been waiting for the right piece of kit to come along and give them the ideal entry into the world of VR, the Quest may just have everything they need.

Facebook’s New Voice Assistant To Be Supported By Oculus

Following the success of Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, Facebook has announced that they are (finally) creating a voice assistant to rival the above-mentioned services. The company syas they have been working on the new initiative since as early as 2018, but news of the voice assistant only broke out after a report from CNBC a few weeks ago. A Facebook spokesperson later confirmed the news with a statement in a Reuters report, claiming:

“We are working to develop voice and AI assistant technologies that may work across our family of AR/VR products including Portal, Oculus and future products.”


Initial Support for Portal and Oculus

The voice assistant will be implemented across Facebook’s entire AR/VR product lineup, most notably Portal and Oculus. They’ve also made an effort to indicate that the voice assistant may be used in upcoming new products in the near future, although we still have no idea what those products may be. As far as supported applications outside of Facebook and its products, it’s anyone’s guess. While it’s very possible that we may see Facebook provide their voice technology to others, it’s still too soon for speculation.


Voice Assistant Capabilities

With very little information released, ideas about how Facebook will implement the AI assistant are all but confirmed. Since it will be a part of various key Facebook products and they are comparing it squarely with the top voice assistants of today, we can hazard a guess as to how it’ll work and what it’ll do.

The company’s Portal video chat smart speaker could greatly benefit from an AI assistant, although the market is already rather saturated. Amazon and Google are several steps ahead of Facebook when it comes to AI assistants, holding 67% and 30% of the market share in the U.S. respectively. Have Google and Apple got too significant a head start in the AI assistant race for Facebook to force their way in? Only time will tell.


Not Facebook’s First Rodeo

The new voice assistant won’t be Facebook’s first attempt at an AI assistant for the Oculus. Since Facebook acquired Oculus back in 2013, they’ve been experimenting with different technologies such as their 2015 AI assistant for Facebook’s Messenger called M (remember that?). The idea was to help users with intuitive and smart suggestions, but it never took off and Facebook eventually had to scrap the project.

In March 2017 we saw an ‘Oculus Voice’ service appear on Oculus devices. Although basic, the service did enable users to perform simple voice searches from Oculus Home, as well as navigate through games and applications. Alexa and similar voice assistants were on a superior level at the time, and Oculus’ initial voice assistant seemed limited in its abilities by comparison. The new and upcoming voice assistant promises vast improvements that make it a viable competitor.


Meet The Team Working On The Project

The development team behind the assistant is operating out of Redmond, Washington, under direction from Ira Synder, the general manager at Facebook Reality Labs. Synder, who previously spent over a decade at Microsoft, is also director of a project called Facebook Assistant, which is probably closely related to Oculus’ Assistant.

Since we have no official statement confirming the name of their new AI assistant, Facebook Assistant might be an internal codename for the project, or it may end up being the actual name of the end product.


What The Future Holds

Considering the rate of progress in the voice powered assistant space, our imagination may be the limiting factor when guessing what Facebook will be able to offer with theirs. As Regina Dugan, former VP at Facebook pointed out, it’s possible that Facebook will one day develop a brain-computer interface.

What’s your take on Facebook’s new voice assistant? Do you use an AI assistant at all? If so, would you consider switching to Facebook’s alternative once it hits the market? Let us know, we’d love to hear your opinion.