Everyone’s hella snarking about the FB Horizons Workrooms project (collaborative work in virtual reality) but mark (ha!) my words…
- 99% of them haven’t tried it.
- 95% of them didn’t bother actually RTFA (“Who is gonna pay thousands of dollars per person for this??!?” [it costs $299])
- Nearly everyone will be “WOW! This is revolutionary!” when Apple eventually copies, er, makes their own version (in fairness, Apple will introduce it in a far more polished way) 😀
I haven’t tried Horizons Workrooms yet because, well, it’s not like Google is gonna go all-in on this for our remote work… and other than Google stuff, I’m generally not collaborating on projects (and I don’t think all my fellow non-profit Groupmuse Foundation board members have the Oculus Quest headset this software requires).
But it seems reasonably useful to me. In particular, I’ve really appreciated spatial audio in gamings and social meetups on various apps!
I know that a ton of us are really Zoom’d out at this point (including me), but there are some very key aspects of VR collaboration that mitigate many problems with ‘regular’ video conferencing:
- No more constant eye-contact. Seriously, every colleague literally facing every other colleague is so unnatural and sometimes even unnerving, not to mention fatiguing!
- You no longer see yourself on camera. Whew! Also a big stress relief.
- And the aforementioned spatial audio is a surprisingly helpful way of quickly getting clued in on who is speaking. It’s just more natural to hear voices coming from different “locations” vs. all blended together via your laptop speakers.
Not Yet Frequently Asked Questions
(but I thought I’d answer them anyway)
“But Adam, won’t the ads be annoying?”
I’d be surprised if this product gets ads shoved in it, since it’s targeted at professionals vs. consumers. I expect it’ll be a loss leader, a way for Oculus to get people to buy their hardware, or something with a freemium upsell in the future.
“How can we trust Facebook with private conversations?!”
If they hope to get big companies onboard (and that’s their path to major profit on this I’d think), they’ll need to include pretty ironclad guarantees re privacy. And lying in that context would screw them over big time.
“But… cartoon characters? With no legs? This looks like a kiddie game!”
Fair. But, as I said, this thing runs on $299 headsets, and it has head and hand tracking but no other physical tracking. With the available computing power at that price point (and without a required PC in the background), any attempt at animated photo-realism would be a pretty painful Uncanny Valley experience.
“Wouldn’t this be uncomfortable for 8 hour stretches?!”
First of all, those of you in 8-hour-stretches of meetings on the daily… you have far bigger problems worry about than the uncomfortableness of a headset. But that extreme aside, yeah, I can’t imagine a typical VR headset being comfortable for particularly long stretches and, besides, the Quest’s battery only lasts 2-2.5 hours.
But for collaborations that last, say, 1 hour… heck, I’ve spent far more than that playing mini-golf on my Quest without any adverse effects :).
“Speaking of adverse effects, don’t people get nauseous in VR?!”
Yep, they sure do, but usually from games involving motion (roller-coastering, running, falling, etc). I would be really surprised if many folks felt sick from a virtual collaboration app in VR.
Curious to know what you think!
Have you tried this yet? Or even just socialized in VR before? 🙂
Any sort of collaboration you’d be interested in tackling with this?