Facebook is now officially Meta. On October 28, the company announced that it was officially changing its name to Meta, a term that founder Mark Zuckerberg said reflects its ambitions to make technologies in the Metaverse.
Most people have an idea by now of what this refers to, either through their newsfeed or social media. The keywords to focus on are virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). The metaverse is a virtual space that is going to be made possible by these technologies.
For most people, terms like VR and AR conjure an image of headsets and gamers. And rightly so, as much as Facebook, sorry, Meta tried to make the metaverse a big deal, the truth is VR and AR are primarily used for gaming. This is even mentioned on Meta’s new website which painstakingly tries to veer off stating it plainly.
What however is perhaps worth a deeper look into is Meta’s vision of how these technologies could potentially change the way we work.
“The metaverse, though, is much larger than gaming. It’s a place for entertainment, yes—but also for work, for socializing, for education, for fitness, and so much more. Building the metaverse means building VR into a general computing platform, like your phone or laptop today.”
While such statements may seem a little like classic co-operate hyperbole, Meta may be onto something here. Apart from gaming, VR could have ‘real world’ applications in the workplace, especially for remote workers.
Remote work is here to stay, even post-COVID, and businesses will have to develop platforms that best simulate the office environment while still working from home. What better to do that than using VR and AR?
This is part of Meta’s vision for the workplace.
“Our next phase of VR releases includes a more social Home space, a new platform for your favorite internet apps, Quest for Business (which will be accessed via new Work Accounts) for those trying out virtual work, a fitness-centric accessories pack for all you Beat Saber Expert+ players, new tools so developers can build incredible mixed-reality experiences, and more.”
No matter what reservations one may have about this vision, one has to admit that it does sound quite attractive.
Imagine attending an online meeting in a virtual office where you will be able to interact with each other through your avatars. This sounds a step higher than the regular video calls where most people keep their cameras turned off.
What if you could collaborate on a design project with a co-worker in a virtual 3D space where you will be able to interact with your creation in real-time? This is the promise that the Metaverse holds for the workplace.
Fantasy aside, let’s take a look at what Meta really has in store for remote workers.
Workrooms is as close as you one can get to a virtual office space. In this virtual space, you get to have meetings with your co-worker’s avatars, communicate and collaborate on projects, all through your Oculus headset. One will also get to enjoy a variety of new technologies to power productivity in a completely virtual space.
“Using features like a mixed-reality desk and keyboard tracking, hand tracking, remote desktop streaming, video conferencing integration, spatial audio, and the new Oculus Avatars, we’ve created a different kind of productivity experience.”
Quest for Business
This is Facebook’s version of Google Suite or Youpal Group’s Yousuite, only virtual. Quest promises a plethora of tools for the virtual workspace accessed through the Oculus Store. These include Gravity Sketch and the aforementioned Horizon Workrooms.
“Quest for Business will let you log in to your Quest 2 headset with a Work Account, an upcoming business-only login that will allow you to collaborate with co-workers and access productivity apps from the Oculus Store like Horizon Workrooms and Gravity Sketch without using your personal Facebook account details. Quest for Business will also enable companies to access dedicated platform functions that they need, like account management, mobile device management (MDM) solutions, SSO integration, and more.”
What happens when you are playing a game or attending a virtual meeting via your Oculus headset and you receive a message? Well, Meta has an answer for that. Apps like Facebook, Slack and Dropbox will appear in VR as 2D panel apps in Horizon Home (and hopefully Horizon Workrooms). This way you can stay connected even while in the metaverse.
All these technologies sound exciting and might potentially revolutionize how we work in the future. There is however a lot of room for improvement and potentially room for innovation.