How Facebook’s New VR App Could Change Work

Virtual meetings made better

Key Takeaways

  • Facebook’s new Horizon Workrooms app lets you collaborate with colleagues through VR. 
  • VR could offer advantages to being physically present at work. 
  • With Workrooms, you can join a meeting in VR as an avatar or dial into the virtual room from your computer by video call.
Horizon Workroom experience

Your office commute soon could involve putting on a VR headset. 

Facebook has launched Horizon Workrooms, a new virtual-reality remote work app that allows people to use Oculus Quest 2 headsets to participate in company meetings. It’s one of a growing number of apps that aim to enable work collaboration using VR. Some experts say that VR could offer advantages to being physically present at work. 

"VR provides the ability to create the perfect setting for any meeting whether it be a traditional boardroom, a theater, or standing on the surface of a distant planet," Aaron Franko, vice president of immersive technology at software development company Saritasa, told Lifewire in an email interview. "There are also many powerful collaboration and presentation tools that are available that would be impractical in most physical environments." 

Meeting up in VR

Facebook’s new Workrooms is a bold vision for the potential of VR as more than a gaming platform. You can join a meeting in VR as an avatar or dial into the virtual room from your computer by video call. There’s also a virtual whiteboard to sketch out ideas. 

One of the more exciting features is the ability to bring your desk, computer, and keyboard into VR with you. You can see your computer and peripherals sitting on a virtual meeting table in front of you. 

The technology uses an Oculus Remote Desktop companion app for Mac and Windows to bring one-click access to your computer from VR. "You can take notes during your meetings, bring your files into VR, and even share your screen with colleagues if you choose," the company wrote on its blog page

Avatars also get an upgrade in Workrooms with customization options and other tweaks to make them seem more expressive and natural. 

Facebook also has worked on the software to make conversations sound more lifelike. The company says it uses low-latency spatial audio to make it sound like people are talking in an actual room.  

Like most other VR productivity apps on the market, Workrooms offers virtual whiteboards. You can use your controller like a pen, either on the physical desk in front of you or standing with others at the whiteboard. The software lets you pin images from your computer on the whiteboard and then mark them up and review them with colleagues. 

Using VR can be a more efficient way to get things done than meeting in a real office, Franko said.

A screenshot of Horizon Workrooms.

"There are significant time savings in simply 'dropping in' to a virtual meeting without dealing with all the travel details or moving from room to room," he added. "All participants benefit in that many meeting rooms can be 'saved' so a meeting doesn’t have to end just because the time is up, and nobody will erase all the important notes on a whiteboard. And if someone misses a meeting or just wants to review it, most have an option to record it so it can be viewed later."

VR Office Apps Multiply

Facebook isn’t the first company to see the potential in VR as a workplace productivity tool. 

Another option for collaboration is MeetinVR, a VR app released this year for the Oculus Quest 2, which offers a choice of virtual backgrounds, avatars, and whiteboards. Another app, Immersed, also lets you work in a virtual office with multiple monitors and a choice of environments. 

Franko predicted that apps like Workrooms eventually could replace face-to-face meetings. 

"My team is spread around the globe, and the ability to sit in a room 'face-to-face' and discuss our next project creates a level of cohesiveness that would be impossible otherwise," he said. "I have attended numerous presentations in VR that allow me to have ad hoc conversations with industry experts and colleagues afterward that creates a sense of community that has been difficult or impossible to achieve, especially during the past 18 months."

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