Meta Exec: VR Meetings Will Coexist With, Not Replace, Videoconferencing (For Now)

Mike LeBeau, founder and product lead for Meta’s Horizon Workrooms, makes the case for VR as the future of team meetings — but admits the user experience is currently lacking.

Story by Matthew Finnegan, Computer World

Often associated with gaming, virtual reality may one day have a place in the office too, providing a more immersive experience and greater sense of presence than is possible with a video call.

That’s the idea behind Meta’s Horizon Workrooms, a virtual 3D environment where colleagues can meet and interact just as they would in person, regardless of where they are physically located. Although a VR headset isn’t required to participate in a Workrooms meeting, when accessed via the company’s Quest Pro — a high-end headset launched last year and aimed at business use — attendees’ avatars are capable of a range of expressions, due to the headset’s five internal infrared sensors, which can track a user’s eye and facial movements.

It’s also possible to work solo in a virtual private office via the Workrooms app, which is publicly available in beta and provides access to a user’s computer monitor and two additional screens.

Meta (formerly Facebook) has committed billions of dollars to development of VR technologies in recent years, but it’s early days for the use of VR as a collaboration tool, and the technology is still evolving. There are currently some limitations around virtual environments when it comes to everyday workplace use, particularly on the hardware front. The Quest Pro’s weight makes extended use uncomfortable for some, while battery life, which Meta states can last a little over two hours for productivity purposes, is another constraint to regular use.

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