Facebook unveils VR remote working experience, Horizon Workrooms

Using the Oculus Quest 2, workers can beam their own Sims-style avatar into the ‘metaverse’

Facebook has launched a fully immersive virtual reality (VR) remote working experience, powered by the Oculus Quest 2 headset, that tries to mimic physically being in a workplace.

With Horizon Workrooms, workers can beam their own comic book-style avatar into a virtual office and perform office-based tasks alongside their colleagues, as they might in a real-world setting. Such activities include working at their terminal, brainstorming, socialising, and listening to presentations.

“Workrooms is our flagship collaboration experience that lets people come together to work in the same virtual room, regardless of physical distance,” Facebook said. 

“It works across both virtual reality and the web and is designed to improve your team’s ability to collaborate, communicate, and connect remotely, through the power of VR - whether that’s getting together to brainstorm or whiteboard an idea, work on a document, hear updates from your team, hang out and socialize, or simply have better conversations that flow more naturally.”

Working at a terminal while listening to a presentation on Horizon Workrooms

This VR experience, which businesses can sign up for in its beta state, is a logical extension of how collaboration tools have attempted to mimic the in-office experience.

Tech firms, like Microsoft and Google, have made efforts to improve their workplace collaboration tools over the last 18 months after COVID-19 forced the majority of office-based workers into some form of remote working. 

While these efforts have improved the remote working experience, they’ve largely failed to live up to the real deal, whether it’s through advances in video conferencing or iterative improvements to platforms such as Microsoft Teams. This is because of the fundamental physical disconnect that remains with remote and virtual working. 

It’s resulted in a new type of fatigue among many remote workers, with crucial aspects such as the office culture also going amiss.

As such, many businesses have instead opted for hybrid models as we emerge from the pandemic, which delivers a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario for a majority of employees. 

Facebook argues that its horizon Workplace experience, which is currently being used by Facebook employees, “transforms your home office into your new favourite meeting room”, and your desk into a shared table where you can gather with teammates. 

Demonstration of spatial audio on Horizon Workrooms

Remote workers can also synchronise their computers with the virtual environment, and work on a virtual terminal, take notes, and share their screens with colleagues. 

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The technology is powered by spatial audio, expressive avatars and hand tracking, which lets you use your hands to point, type or give a thumbs-up. 

The innovation builds on Mark Zuckerberg’s longstanding vision to build a metaverse that users can readily tap into and out of. 

The Facebook co-founder recently ramped up the rhetoric behind this concept, suggesting in July 2021 that his company's future, and that of the internet, lied in the “metaverse”, according to Bloomberg

It’s something that’s been on the executive’s mind for many years, however, with Oculus hiring the former Google Glass lead engineer Adrian Wong in 2014 for a job as a ‘professional daydreamer’, with the task of “building the Metaverse”.

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