Facebook has just launched the beta for their new Oculus-powered VR meeting app which aims to reduce the feelings of isolation and increase collaboration in virtual meetings.
The service is called Horizon Workrooms, and the app allows users to join fully-fleshed virtual meeting rooms through their own personal avatar. Facebook hopes that Horizon Workrooms can help fuel creativity and productivity by enabling employees to work and communicate in the same virtual space.
Horizon Workrooms is mainly targeted to small-to-medium businesses looking to navigate mixed working and remote working as the world starts to move past the pandemic. With many firms now choosing to remain partially or fully remote, there are fresh concerns about work-from-home employee’s mental health with prolonged isolation. So Facebook hopes that working with colleagues through VR provides much-needed social contact during WFH.
What can you do with Horizon Workspaces?
This new app isn’t too dissimilar to previous VR communication platforms like VR Chat, but it is one of the first designed entirely for business use. Initially being tested for the Oculus Quest 2, users can join a meeting in VR as an avatar or dial into the virtual room from their computers via video call.
Employees can ideate to their colleagues with virtual shared whiteboards. Using the Quest 2’s VR remote, you can use a virtual pen to draw ideas and illustrations to show to your audience.
Facebook hopes users will love the bring your own desk feature, allowing you to recreate your desk in your VR virtual space. Transport your desk to your company’s virtualized office space and join your colleagues as if it were an open office, allowing for the return of small talk and collaborative working.
Oculus’s Remote Desktop companion app for Mac and Windows lets you access your entire computer quickly with one click from VR. During meetings, you can take notes, bring your files into VR, and even share your screen with colleagues.
Using the power of spatial audio, users can feel immersed in their virtual surroundings. You’ll hear people around you based on where they are sitting in the workroom, just like they would sound in real life.
When you join a workroom, you’ll be represented by an expressive virtual avatar. Users create their personalized avatars through the Oculus avatar creator. These avatars will move with you as your VR headset tracks your movements and head direction.
For employees and guests without VR headsets, meeting participants can also join the call by video call. These video participants will show up on a screen in the virtual room, and they will get a 2D camera view of the meeting room.
Is Horizon Workrooms any good?
Despite its recent beta launch, we’ve been able to gauge the critical reception of the service. Niche virtual reality blog The Ghost Howl describes Horizon Workroom as “nice, but not compelling for work yet.” The lack of the ability to interact with 3D other than your desk and the shared whiteboard was criticized.
Josh Hendrickson of Reviewgeek noted that the experience for “those on video call and not in VR [was] disjointed.” Hendrickson offered the opinion that the service “felt like the future” but was apprehensive of its widespread adoption, saying “(almost) no-one will use it.”
Getting Started in Horizon Workrooms
Horizon Workrooms is available as a beta for those sporting the Oculus Quest 2. To get started, you’ll have to head over to workrooms.com and create a shared meeting room for your participants.
Then, share your meeting invites with colleagues and get the (strictly professional) party started. Facebook plans to release their service to more Oculus devices in the future and may even extend the app to other VR headsets.
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