Facebook Horizon Workrooms VR Remote Work App launched, touted as a step towards the “Metaverse”

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Facebook on Thursday launched a test of a new virtual reality remote work app that will allow users of the company’s Oculus Quest 2 headsets to host meetings as avatar versions of themselves.

The beta test of the Horizon Workrooms app from Facebook is taking place as many companies continue to work from home after the physical workspaces have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a new variant is being rolled out worldwide.

Facebook sees its recent launch as an early step in building the futuristic “metaverse” that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has touted in recent weeks.

The world’s largest social network has invested heavily in virtual and augmented reality, developed hardware like its Oculus VR headsets, worked on AR glasses and wristband technologies, and bought a variety of VR gaming studios, including BigBox VR.

Dominance in this area, on which Facebook is betting the next big computing platform, will make it possible to be less dependent on other hardware manufacturers like Apple in the future, according to the company.

Facebook’s Reality Labs group vice president Andrew “Boz” Bosworth said the new Workrooms app “gives a good feel for” how the company envisions elements of the metaverse.

“This is one of those fundamental steps in that direction,” Bosworth told reporters during a VR press conference.

The term “metaverse”, which was coined in the dystopian novel “Snow Crash” from 1992, is used to describe immersive, shared spaces accessed through different platforms where the physical and the digital converge. Zuckerberg described it as “the embodied Internet”.

It has been featured in several recent earnings calls from technology CEOs like Zuckerberg, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, David Baszucki of games company Roblox, and Shar Dubey of Match Group, who have spoken about how their companies could shape aspects of this futuristic space.

In July, Facebook announced that it would assemble a product team to work on the Metaverse that would be part of its AR and VR group Facebook Reality Labs.

In its first full VR newsbriefing, the company showed how Workrooms users can design avatar versions of themselves to meet in virtual reality conference rooms and collaborate on shared whiteboards or documents while still using their own physical one Her desk and her computer keyboard interact. The app, available for free through the Quest 2 headsets, which costs about $ 300 (about 22,320 rupees), allows up to 16 people together in VR and up to 50 total including video conference participants. Bosworth said Facebook now regularly uses Workrooms for internal meetings.

The company said it would not use people’s work meetings and materials in workrooms to target advertisements on Facebook. It also states that users must follow VR community standards and that violating behavior can be reported to Oculus.

Facebook recently stopped selling its Oculus Quest 2 headsets and recalled the foam faceliners based on reports of skin irritation in collaboration with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The recall notice said it affected approximately 4 million units in the U.S., which provides an estimate of Quest 2 headset sales that have not yet been officially announced by the company. Facebook reported $ 497 million (approximately Rs.3,700 billion) in revenue in the second quarter of 2021 from the AR and VR portions of the business, as well as e-commerce.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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