It’s been almost two years since the coronavirus pandemic made remote working the norm, yet tech companies are still rolling out overcomplicated collaboration tools nobody asked for in an attempt to capitalise on our Zoom malaise. Today’s submission: Oculus Quest 2’s Horizon Workrooms, now in free open beta.
Announced by Facebook on Thursday, Horizon Workrooms is a virtual meeting space that will let colleagues gather in VR and work from the same virtual “room.” Workrooms include virtual whiteboards which you can export as an image, configurable room layouts, and the ability to use your computer in the virtual room via keyboard tracking and the Oculus Remote Desktop companion app. They literally put work in your work so you can work while you work.
“[Horizon Workrooms] is designed to improve your team’s ability to collaborate, communicate, and connect remotely, through the power of VR — whether that’s getting together to brainstorm or whiteboard an idea, work on a document, hear updates from your team, hang out and socialize, or simply have better conversations that flow more naturally,” said Facebook in a press release.
If you decide to use a controller, Workrooms will let you wield it like a pen in its virtual space. However Horizon Workrooms also supports hand tracking, so you don’t won’t need to worry about a controller slipping from your sweaty palms while your boss chews you out more naturally thanks to glorious VR.
“Workrooms is one of our first experiences that was designed from the start to use your hands, and not controllers, as your primary input,” said Facebook.
Of course, the fact that few workplaces are likely to provide all their employees with Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets means the actual audience for Facebook’s new work platform is severely limited. Fortunately Facebook has thought of this, also making Horizon Workrooms available via the web so the lowly browser proles can mingle with the shining demigods of VR. One Horizons Workroom space can support up to 50 collaborators at once, including up to 16 privileged few in virtual reality.
Web users appear via video call on a virtual screen, so the interactivity isn’t quite the same. However, everyone in a room can access the Workrooms web app regardless of VR status, providing a space to write notes, share links, and chat. It can also be synced with Outlook and Google Calendar.
On the face of it, VR workspaces such as Horizon Workrooms seem like more of a novel distraction than a practical long-term tool. Though to be fair, pretty much everyone could use a distraction right now, and the break in monotony can prompt engagement and creativity. Plus you can customise your own Oculus Avatar too, so that’s fun. Horizon Workrooms’ free open beta is available to download now.