Horizon Workrooms emphasizes Facebook’s meta-global ambitions

Portrait of a young businessman in a modern loft office in a virtual reality headset to attend a meeting in VR

PHOTO: Adobe

Earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg cut off a earnings call to share his vision for Facebook. He summed it up in one word: the metauniverse. The metauniverse, as he defines it, is a collective virtual shared space that includes the sum of all virtual worlds and the Internet. It may contain derivatives or copies of the real world, but it is different from augmented reality (AR).

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The job opportunities he presented were seemingly endless, but it also seemed more like a simple dream than something businesses could really get into. However, last week Facebook announced the beta version of a new application for remote work in virtual reality, where users of the company’s Oculus Quest 2 headsets can hold meetings as an avatar.

The beta version probably won’t change the game in the sense that it doesn’t mean a change directly for Facebook – at least not yet. In 2014, Facebook bought Oculus Research, which focused on the promotion, research and development of virtual and augmented reality (VR, AR). In 2020, it was renamed Reality Labs and remained a division of Facebook Technologies.

The new beta is already hailed by Facebook as the first significant practical step towards a metacosm and, more specifically, a metauniverse focused on work and collaboration. Introducing the beta version, the company explained in a statement:

“The way we work is changing. More and more people are working remotely, more and more people want flexible work options, and more and more people are rethinking what it means to be in the office. But without proper connection tools, remote work still has many problems. Working without colleagues can sometimes feel isolated, and brainstorming with other people is simply not the same if you are not in the same room.

A program called Horizon Workrooms is available for free download on Oculus Quest 2 in countries where Quest 2 is supported. Workrooms are a collaborative experience that allows people to come together to work in one virtual room, regardless of physical distance.

It works in both virtual reality and the Internet and is designed to improve the team’s ability to collaborate, communicate and connect remotely through virtual reality. Users can join a VR meeting as an avatar or call a virtual room from a computer via video call. They can use a virtual board to share ideas, use computers and a virtual reality keyboard to work with others, or just have expressive conversations that are more like personal interactions.

Related article: Why Meta Universe Facebook is still just a dream

VR: The inevitable next step in remote meetings?

Les Borsai, co-founder and director of strategy for the Los Angeles-based Wave Financial Group, recently noted that the concept of the metaverse should be universal enough to handle multiple Internet access points, VR and AR. He said that Facebook has already made significant progress in this initiative, as Reality Labs brings together researchers from different gaming strata who are now struggling with the concept of “presence”, ie how it feels in space with others. Facebook is also developing AR glasses, more advanced VR headsets, and even software that allows users to “teleport” to other digital spaces. The release of Horizon Workrooms contributes to this.

For Eric McGee, senior network engineer at TRGDatacenters in Spring, Texas, such rooms will be the future of communications. He argues that after a pandemic, virtual meetings will remain the norm, not the exception.

Since virtual meetings are here to stay, McGee said, it’s time to improve the participants’ experience. Zoom appointments have several drawbacks, including the impersonal nature of appointments. He argues that VR can improve the experience of those who participate in virtual meetings. “It can be used to create a more attractive, fun and attractive meeting environment that is sure to make the meeting more productive,” he said.

Communication with clients

But it’s not just about internal communication. Horizon Workrooms and the like also have a future in communicating with customers, said Nick Shekelford, managing partner of the structured agency Orange County, California. It envisages that companies will incorporate meta-universe technology and its aspects to promote the brand through the products, services and customers they represent.

“Involving the consumer in the brand narrative and providing feedback, and in turn, your average consumer, to become a product pusher and an influential factor, will simplify companies’ advertising campaigns and raise brand awareness to a new level,” he said. “We no longer live in the age of shop windows.”

He also notes that the consumer can easily buy and return goods, reducing risk and improving the consumer’s relationship with the seller. “I see that this concept is rapidly evolving into an interactive pre-purchase experience, perpetuating further interaction between the brand and its customers,” added Shekelford.

Virtual personal contact

The only thing missing in today’s virtual communication is the humanity of face-to-face conversations, said Greg Rozdeba, president of Dundas Life in Toronto. Zoom and other video conferencing tools allow you to communicate virtually, but they do not come close to the full range of human experiences that provide face-to-face communication. “Virtual reality meeting tools, such as Horizon desks, help bring that touch of humanity, and we’re moving from normal face-to-face communication to virtual meetings and interactions,” he said.

Unlike Zoom and other modern tools for communicating over the Internet, he added, VR provides a more immersive experience, allowing digital and physical realities to exist and interact with each other simultaneously in real time. This experience promotes better collaboration between team members, no matter where they are in the world. It also leads to improved learning and interaction between participants.

Horizon Workrooms is just the last step for Facebook. The company is not alone, moving into the space of the metauniverse.

For the second year in a row, Facebook will hold the Connect conference in late October as a virtual conference. The company traditionally uses Facebook Connect to make big announcements about its AR and VR tools. Last year, Facebook introduced its VR Quest 2 headsets and provided more details about the Project Aria AR wearable device project. This year, as the metaworld and virtual communications become key tools for the enterprise, we can expect more ads.

Mark Zuckerberg has already claimed that Facebook will successfully become a meta-universe company in five years, and by 2030 AR glasses and virtual reality headsets will be ready for daily mass use. However, this is not an easy task.

First, Facebook must be able to make its VR technology compatible with the metaverses of other companies. Facebook also needs to make its infrastructure fully scalable so that the user experience doesn’t lag behind when more users join. How it will operate in this emerging new market will depend on how Facebook and its competitors respond to this challenge.

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