Bay Area company behind virtual meetings that bring Tampa to the world

The gaming world has been the proving ground, but now, virtual reality technology is getting down to business.

“We were able to create an outdoor amphitheater and that amphitheater actually looked across the Hillsborough River,” explained Brandi Yates, director of career services training for Ultimate Medical Academy.

Normally, the academy holds a national conference in Tampa for employers from across the nation. But because of COVID-19, they sent virtual reality equipment to clients who put on the headsets and virtually visited Tampa.

“They could turn their head to the right and see the Sykes Building and Curtis Hixon Park, and to the left and see the Glazer Museum and the Art Museum,” said Yates.

The technology allowed participants to talk to one another, ask questions, and taste the local flavor.

Ultimate Medical Academy holds virtual Tampa conference

“We even had our president chime in and say, ‘What you’re looking at right now is where the Lightning had their boat victory parade for the Stanley Cup,” she said, adding that reality can make for a richer experience than conferences via Microsoft Teams or Zoom.

“I think everyone is a little Zoomed-out these days,” she laughed.

She also says distractions can be avoided.

“You’re on a Zoom call on one screen, you have your email on the other screen, and chats and messages, it can get hectic.”

U.M.A. is also using virtual reality for its core business, medical training. They have a virtual pharmacy where trainees can interact with customers and a virtual office where they can practice resolving billing issues with insurance companies.

Yates says the possibilities are unlimited.

“It’s cool to design it the way you want it to be,” she said. “And make it as realistic as possible.”

Yates said she has fun with the technology, but U.M.A. is putting virtual reality to work.