Horizon Workrooms: is VR the future of remote work?
Since this fall we are experimenting with Horizon Workrooms for remote meetings and collaboration at my day job. Horizon Workrooms is a virtual reality (VR) app for the Oculus Quest by Meta (aka Facebook) to connect and collaborate with people.
I’m working remote since 2010 (or perhaps 2009) and our company is also fully remote since its inception. I never became a fan of video calls in all those years and avoid them where I can. Just like many other people who already worked remote before the pandemic.
Horizon Workrooms and collaboration
The thing with most video calls is that it is not much more than someone staring at their screen. It does not come close to a meeting in real life. Meet Horizon Workrooms! Mark Zuckerberg announced it during the summer of 2021. He presented it as the future of how we work and it immediately caught my attention.
In Workrooms you are an avatar and that might sound like a gimmick, but it is not. That is partly due to the sensors in the Oculus Quest 2 that enable non-verbal communication. There are hand gestures and other body language and with spatial audio, the sound of people speaking comes from the direction they sit. It makes a meeting much more intimate. You miss that with voice and also with video.
You get more lively conversations in Workrooms and it lets you collaborate. Each participant can use its own laptop, share a screen or move to a whiteboard for some drawing. You can even use your keyboard and see it in front of you. It is like… you are together and working in a real room. I know this might sound romantic and of course it is not the same as a meeting each other in real life, but it is the closest thing I have experienced. And you don’t waist time travelling.
VR takes phones out of the meeting
A downside of Workrooms is that you need a VR set and as of writing those things are still quite bulky. On the flip side, wearing VR glasses prevents people from looking at their phones. That is a big plus.
The Oculus Quest 2 VR set itself costs € 349 (in the Netherlands) and you don’t need a computer for using it. When you want to use you laptop in Workrooms you need to install the Oculus Remote Desktop app on your laptop. It is a free app and the Oculus connects wireless to your laptop.
As of writing, Horizon Workrooms is still in beta and it can be buggy. But, it is very promising and Meta is focused on making it a succes. It is by far my preferred way of meeting and I’m convinced it gets even better. Comparing the price with the costs of meetings in offices, it is a no brainer to give it a try.