Thursday 19th Aug 2021 Facebook launched a test of a new virtual-reality remote work app. Where users of the company’s Oculus Quest 2 headsets can hold meetings as avatar versions of themselves.
This comes at a time when most companies are opting to continue working from home. After the Covid-19 pandemic shut down physical workplaces.
The world’s largest social network has made significant investments in virtual and augmented reality. Developing gear like its Oculus VR headsets, working on AR glasses and wristband technologies. And purchasing a number of VR gaming studios, including BigBox VR.
Facebook’s vice president of its Reality Labs group, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, said the new Workrooms app gives “a good sense” of how the company envisions elements of the metaverse.
“This is kind of one of those foundational steps in that direction,” Bosworth told reporters during a VR news conference.
The word “metaverse,” invented in the 1992 dystopian novel “Snow Crash”. Refers to immersive, shared areas that may be accessed across several platforms. And where the physical and digital worlds converge. It’s been dubbed a “embodied internet” by Zuckerberg.
It has been referenced in several recent earnings calls by tech CEOs including Zuckerberg, Microsoft Satya Nadella, gaming company Roblox David Baszucki and Match Group’s Shar Dubey, who have talked about how their companies could shape aspects of this futuristic realm.
Facebook said in July that it was forming a metaverse product team as part of its Facebook Reality Labs AR and VR department.
What does it look like?
Well, it’s more like “disembodied internet” because the avatars don’t have legs. But when you step foot float into Workrooms, your coworkers’ avatars will join you at a virtual meeting table. Synced-up hand gestures, interactive white boards, and spatial audio help make the experience feel more realistic.
Zoom out: Workrooms is one part of a larger VR experience called Horizon that Facebook had planned to launch last year. But because a true “metaverse” in the Wreck-It Ralph sense would involve lots of unique, interconnected experiences (Workrooms being just one), Facebook’s currently working on tools that will allow creators to help build it out.
Bad timing? Or maybe clever timing? Facebook’s announcement came right before the FTC refiled a lawsuit yesterday alleging the company has a “monopoly” on social networking.
The company said it would not use people’s work conversations and materials in Workrooms to target ads on Facebook. It also said users must follow its VR community standards and that rule-breaking behavior can be reported to Oculus.