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Katmai launches version 1.0 of Virtual Office for online workers


Katmai Tech aims to revolutionize the way we do remote work with a new 3D virtual office platform. And today it is launching version 1.0 of its product, Virtual Office.

Katmai believes that the remote work landscape that emerged with the pandemic has changed how we’ll work, with some workplaces staying in virtual or hybrid mode. For those businesses, it has created Virtual Office as an online workplace that uses a combination of 3D virtual offices, video cameras and avatars.

Erik Braund, CEO of Katmai Tech, said in an interview with GamesBeat that as “return to work” mandates stir debate, the company has created a happy medium for hybrid work, where you can work in a virtual office and have things work as if you were there in person. For instance, you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate to a meeting room and then close the door for a completely private meeting with a coworker. If you leave the door open, others can join the meeting and be instantly heard.

“I’m just thinking through like the anecdotal, anecdotal feedback we get. It’s changing people’s personal lives. And that’s so insanely powerful, and so aligned with our beliefs of that you don’t have to go to an office every day,” he said.

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The goal is to redefine the concept of remote work, and successfully bridge the gap between vital in-person office interactions and the convenience of working from home, Braund said. With this launch, Katmai introduces a much-needed layer of freedom into the workplace: the freedom to work from anywhere, the freedom to have spontaneous interactions, and the freedom to gain mentorship and genuine connections with colleagues.

Despite 98% of employees wanting to work remotely, many companies are giving their employees an
ultimatum — return to the office or risk losing their jobs. This dichotomy in employee vs. employer desires
has sparked a call for change and urgency to find a new solution to the “return to the office” debate.

Conversely, in-person work limits the talent pool to a significantly smaller radius for employers and makes
it increasingly difficult to connect to the company culture, fellow colleagues, and leadership for
employees. This is where Katmai provides a meaningful middle ground.

Katmai’s Virtual Office operates within the expansive yet underserved space between standard video
conferencing tools and in-person office interactions, providing opportunities for mentorship, connection
with colleagues, and the bi-directional value of visibility.

“This is the first actual release of a big product. So people can just go sign up and learn about it themselves and start using it,” Braund said. “We have people in mind for this. We’re also super excited to just have a lot of folks outside of that focus try it out and use it.”

Virtual Office steps in where other products cannot by welcoming employees to a realistic 3D workplace environment from anywhere in the world without the need for a VR headset. This platform redefines face-to-face interactions with its unique real-time video displays and an easy-to-navigate online office where employees can move about as if they were in person – from a team brainstorming session in the community area to a quick chat on the terrace.

As I looked around Katmai’s Virtual Office, I saw balloons decorating the place in honor of its grand opening. Braund said every office creator can either work with existing templates or create a new floor plan for their own company’s virtual office.

By incorporating real video instead of cartoon avatars, Katmai fosters authentic human interactions in keeping with its vision of changing remote work. I tried out a demo and it worked pretty well in making you feel like you’re both in an office with other people and still taking advantage of being remote, said Braund.

Shared experiences

You can meet on an outdoor office patio penthouse in Virtual Office from Katmai.

Katmai’s virtual office product merges the benefits of a shared in-office experience with the convenience of working remotely, paving the way for a work paradigm that is truly inclusive. The 3D virtual office boasts a blend of private and co-working spaces, spatial audio, spontaneous interactions, and personalized environments that vividly represent your brand and products in the virtual realm.

It uses web-based technologies such as glTF, a 3D file format for lightweight 3D and ecommerce. The aim is to have a download happen in 10 seconds or less.

Businesses can create their own virtual office space in less than 24 hours through their desktop or mobile
web browser, without the need for hardware or a long onboarding process through the sales team.

“Our Virtual Office allows people the freedom to live where they choose and maximize time with family
and friends, without sacrificing the proximity and visibility to their colleagues, that we’ve all felt lacking as
we’ve worked more virtual over the past several years,” said Braund. “At Katmai, we’re focused on fostering the human connection, thereby transforming the ways businesses and teams collaborate, grow, and succeed together. Productivity, innovation, and trust are all the byproducts of interpersonal connections strengthening over time. We’re optimizing personal and professional outcomes by enabling these connections through a simple webcam and browser.”

Other solutions don’t cover all of the dynamics of an office. You can send a meeting invitation to people, but if you aren’t invited ahead of time, it’s like you don’t exist and can’t be added in an impromptu way, Braund said.

“There’s no opportunity for anything impromptu, or mentoring,” he said. “We play in the space in between a centralized place and something remote.”

The company raised $22 million in funding earlier this year, and it is now working with notable brands such as Starbucks and SoundCloud.

Katmai is enhancing the Starbucks brand experience by crafting immersive, 3D virtual experiences accessible through a PC or mobile browser, requiring no extra hardware. Starbucks Odyssey members
can effortlessly experience the brand and its heritage by exploring digital replicas of iconic Starbucks
locations and unique virtual spaces that deepen their engagement with Starbucks.

SoundCloud is leveraging Katmai to bridge continents and bring their distributed employees together in
one space.

“After implementing Katmai’s Virtual Office at Soundcloud, we’re enthusiastic about the potential it holds to transform team interactions across brands and industries,” said Rohit Agarwal, CPTO at SoundCloud, in a statement. “The fusion of virtual freedom with simulated presence has enhanced visibility across our teams and driven productivity. I genuinely believe that Katmai has boosted how our team connects, and
I’m excited to integrate our new HQ into our way of working.”

Following a 30-day free trial, Virtual Office will be accessible and affordable at $15 per month per user. The company was founded in 2020 and is partnering with brands and enterprises, creating things like one-off event experiences or digital twins of real world locations. You can design offices with multiple floors and work on the permissions of who can go between those floors.

Since launching its closed beta in 2021, Katmai has been working with dozens of companies across both Fortune 500 firms and startups with a diverse range of use cases. The company has worked on the tech for 3.5 years.

“We came out of stealth and it was great to see people interacting with it,” Braund said. “We had this idea of version one in our heads. But when we saw how people were using it, we decided we should put this out now as we’re the only ones standing in the way. Let’s put this damn thing out.”

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