In March 2020, when the world went into Covid lockdown, lawyers everywhere learned to use video conferencing technology for the first time. What started as a business necessity soon revealed itself as an essential part of any professional workflow, one that is certain to remain long after the pandemic has ended. With so many of us suddenly forced to use new technology in working from home, it is a good moment to think about what new technologies are on the horizon for lawyers even after business returns to normal.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual reality is a natural extension of video conferencing. Think of it as like Zoom in a fully immersive, three-dimensional space. To get the full VR experience, users wear special goggles and headphones so your field of view changes when you move your head, and if someone on your left speaks, you hear it in your left ear. Unlike Zoom where you see faces on a screen, VR makes it feel like you are in the same room.
In its most basic application, VR could bring together individuals from all over the world into a digital conference room for a deposition, or a courtroom for a hearing. Participants have the ability to share documents and interact with three-dimensional objects. Permissions can easily be configured so only authorized individuals can view certain documents, which would appear blurred to others. Lawyers will have the ability to engage in sidebars and private conversations without having to move, and without fear of being overheard.
From there, the sky is the limit in how VR may be used in law practice. Accident reconstructions exhibits could exist in three dimensions, or even a first-person view. Engineers and architects could testify while walking around inside a building with a rending of the blueprint superimposed on the actual structure. Prosecutors could take the jury through a digital representation of the scene of the crime.
This seems like science fiction today, but virtual reality is already commercially viable for video games and video entertainment. It is only a matter of time until VR goes mainstream in business applications, and if the past year has taught us anything, it is that change happens sooner and faster than we expect.
Have you ever negotiated a business deal with a robot? You may not think so, but don’t be so sure. Automated negotiation, originally developed to facilitate cooperation between computers, it already in use by major retailers to negotiate supplier contracts with dozens of variables. The next time you make a settlement offer, a computer may advise your opposing counsel whether to take the deal or press for more.