After being developed and tested in private beta all through last year, Facebook recently launched a free beta version of Horizon Workrooms for the public to download and use. Horizon Workrooms is a VR collaboration tool that provides teams with a virtual space across VR and the web for people to connect and work together. It is meant to provide an immersive collaboration experience for teams working remotely.
Horizon Workrooms leverages mixed-reality for allowing real-world entities such as keyboards and desks to be used in the virtual world for collaboration purposes. The company also claims that Workrooms is a new paradigm built to provide users with a different yet improved experience through its video conference integrations, spatial audio, gesture support, hand tracking abilities, and all-new Oculus Avatars.
Facebook has been actively working, researching, and investing in virtual and augmented reality to build a VR “Metaverse” focused on work and collaboration. Accordingly, the Horizon Workrooms is the company’s first practical step toward building it. According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the Metaverse is a collective virtual shared space, including the sum of all virtual worlds and the Internet.
To get started, users will have to use the company’s Oculus Quest 2 headsets to download the app to experience VR-powered meetings and connect with teammates in the same virtual room. Any one of the users from the group or team will have to sign up and create a new Workrooms team from workrooms.com. They can also invite colleagues to their existing workrooms team. Once the user registration is complete, users will have to download the Workrooms app from the Oculus Store on their Quest 2 devices and follow the instructions and prompts to get started.
Every meeting room in Workrooms comes with a web integration meant to capture notes and action items while you’re in a meeting, share links and files, and chat with your team. The web platform allows users to sync other web solutions such as Google Workspace or Outlook to make it easy to schedule and share meetings while being able to store and retrieve data with ease. Horizon Workrooms works across both web and virtual reality platforms. The Workrooms web app is offered in countries where Facebook is available and the VR app is available and offered in countries where Quest 2 is supported.
Workrooms leverages mixed reality to power virtual meetings. Therefore, it allows users to get in their real-world productivity tools such as desk, computer, and compatible keyboards into the VR to make the most out of these virtual meetings platform. With the new Oculus Remote Desktop companion app for Mac and Windows, users can have access to their entire computer in the VR world and perform regular operations such as screen sharing and presenting, among other operations.
The new Workrooms will also allow its users to create their avatars through Oculus Avatars. These aviators are meant to enable more natural conversation using the virtual counterparts of the users in the VR world. The spatial audio technology enables a high-quality, low latency audio experience to mimic real-life conversations in a physical room.
A traditional whiteboard or a notepad to take notes while in a meeting allows you to sketch out ideas and capture information. Therefore, Workrooms has a virtual whiteboard for users to list their thoughts out in real-time with their colleagues. Moreover, users can take meeting notes in their most convenient form as the Oculus Remote Desktop companion app allows them to leverage all of the regular computer’s features. These features are meant to provide better collaboration and mimic the real-world meeting/conference experiences in the virtual world.
Workrooms will allow users to customize and create virtual rooms to match their needs. Moreover, users will create multiple different rooms in multiple different layouts to meet the meeting requirements.
Facebook says that the Workrooms is built with safety and privacy in mind. Accordingly, Workrooms will not use the work conversation or the material used during these meetings to cue ads on Facebook. Facebook also made it clear that even the third-party apps integrated with Workrooms will not be given access to the data being streamed or used in the meetings. Finally, to ensure that every user on the platform is following the policies set by Facebook, they must have to agree to the defined Facebook Community Standards and Conduct in VR Policy.
Facebook announced that they are working to bring several of these features of the Workrooms for developers to use in their apps. Currently, features such as hand tracking and spatial audio are readily available for developers to use and leverage. Facebook also confirmed that they would be releasing other features such as avatars, mixed-reality desk, tracked keyboard capabilities, and more for developers to use soon.
Facebook believes that virtual reality possesses the ability to transform the way we work. Its ability to allow for better collaboration while bridging the gaps between the regular office setups and the remote working culture could revamp the digital collaboration setups as we know them today.
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