Facebook is finally expanding its VR visions further, five years after the launch of the Oculus Rift. Facebook has rolled out a beta version test for its new Horizon Workrooms. The employees at Facebook have been using this virtual space for over six months now. Facebook has planned it as an office tool that can be accessed with the help of a wireless VR headset.
Facebook had designed its VR headsets for more than games. Now the company is launching it in the office working space where people meet in virtual offices. Mark Zuckerberg says that it will be the future of remote work which was fuelled by the pandemic.
Horizon Workrooms is a free app that can be used for virtual meetings and conferences. It will currently work with Oculus Quest 2 VR headset and regular computers. Zuckerberg says, “I think video conferencing has taken us pretty far. But I don’t know, I can just tell you that as we start planning to go back into the office, I’m not super excited about having most meetings be over video. What we’re trying to move towards is a world where a lot of what we do is in here [VR], and the people who can’t be in here can be on video. So people can feel present that way if people aren’t together in person physically.”
Zuckerberg also hopes that it will add to video chat by providing a means to “brainstorm, chat, [and] collaborate.”
Horizon Workrooms was introduced through a presentation by Facebook reality Labs VP Andrew Bosworth. The presentation was joined by Zuckerberg himself, first in a video chat on a virtual wall-screen and then coming in a 3D avatar made to look like sitting on an office chair to chat with the reporters who were invited to take a look at Horizon Workrooms. There were some minor glitches during the presentation. The software is not fully developed and is still under development. Facebook is also working on its interconnected work tools.
If looked at it, it will prove to be Facebook’s footsteps into entering the metaverse. With this app, they are trying to “reinvent its definition of social media into 3D spaces”. Zuckerberg aims to use real tools in VR to make it stand different. Zuckerberg had already shared his plans on making Facebook, a “metaverse” company. Workrooms is actually a part of a platform called Horizon which Facebook started working on two years ago. More social tools will be added to this platform.
Zuckerberg doesn’t want Workrooms to be viewed as an enterprise tool. He said, “I don’t think that this suggests in any way that we’re going to try to become an enterprise company. But I do think that work is going to be one of the key use cases that people try to do in the metaverse.” The VR part of the Workrooms will require access to a Facebook account to connect.
Zuckerberg also argues that virtual VR meetings will have more impact on memory than the usual grid-based video chats. He said that Workrooms will allow people to make memories with the help of VR and will make it feel more real. Horizon Workrooms will work on both the Oculus Quest 2 and on a computer. This app will link the Remote Desktop app and enables the casting of the computer screen into the VR meeting.
The cartoon avatar does not make use of the user’s real image and will be simply a cartoonish avatar. The hands of the users can be detected by Oculus Quest 2 headset cameras and can be used to wave hi and point at things. By pinching one’s fingers, the user can make a pointer that selects and launches settings in the control panel.
The app can also map the user’s actual desk location and the layers the VR desk on top. It can also identify certain keyboards and place them on top of the VR desk. It can also cast one’s computer screen into the meeting. Features like in-app messenger are not added to this app yet.
Facebook is planning to take this technology further in the coming months.