Facebook has launched a virtual-reality working app called Horizon Workrooms where employees hold in-person meetings as avatar versions of themselves.
Using an Oculus Quest 2 headset, people working from home can join meetings virtually and get the feel of being in the same room. Except they still aren’t, of course. But with 3D features, spatial sound, hand tracking for note-taking, and a long-awaited multiplayer VR playground, Facebook Horizon, in development, it’s currently the closest thing companies can get whilst working remotely. Not to mention – it’s quite fun.
It’s the social network’s first stab at creating a VR experience specifically for people to work together in and is maximizing on the remote-work revolution which the organization itself is keeping in place until early next year amid the pandemic.
An office inside the internet
“So I think of the metaverse as the next generation of the internet,” Zuckerberg said. “So you can kind of think about it as, instead of being an internet that we look at, right, on our mobile phones or our computer screens, it’s an internet that we are a part of, or that we can be inside of.”
With Facebook Horizon Workrooms you can enter and experience a virtual reality office as personally designed avatars. In the workroom, you can see your computer screen and keyboard, interact with your co-workers, brainstorm and give presentations in the same way you would in an in-person meeting room.
How do you join Horizon Workrooms?
Up to 16 people in VR can be in a Workroom together, while an additional 34 people can join over video call without wearing a headset. A companion desktop app lets you beam a live feed of your computer screen over your virtual table space. Thanks to the Quest’s hand-tracking and front-facing cameras, a virtual representation of your physical keyboard sits underneath your screen for typing into a barebones web app Facebook built for note taking and managing calendars.
“It basically gives you the opportunity to, you know, sit around a table with people and work, and brainstorm and whiteboard ideas,” Zuckerberg explained. “For people who can’t be there through virtual reality, they could just video conference in. So you can include everyone.
“It’s this pretty amazing experience where, you know, you feel like you’re really right there with your colleagues.”
Workers can design their avatars’ looks and use hand gestures, which will appear in the virtual room. Facebook began testing the idea before the COVID-19 pandemic, Zuckerberg said, and already uses the product internally.
What technology do you need?
To get started inside “Horizon Workrooms,” you’ll need to buy an Oculus VR headset. The “Quest 2” currently starts at $299. Once you have the headset, you can download the free “Horizon Workrooms” app, which will allow you to join your own virtual workspace. You can invite other users with an Oculus device into the conference room.
Don’t have a headset? Team members without Oculus equipment can still join the room through a conference call link that displays them as a video call inside the room instead of an avatar.