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In a nutshell: As more people work from home, virtual reality developers are racing to create immersive virtual environments where employees can work together more naturally than video conferencing. Facebook's Oculus division has been working on a solution and unveiled Horizon Workrooms today.
On Thursday, Facebook introduced Horizon Workrooms. The project is targeted at companies with staff working from home. The Oculus Quest 2 app allows users to connect with and collaborate with coworkers in a virtual environment.
Colleagues using Horizon Workrooms can create an avatar and work together in a virtual meeting room. Features include:
- Mixed-reality desk and keyboard tracking.
- Hand tracking.
- Remote desktop streaming.
- Video conferencing integration.
- Spatial audio.
Rooms are customizable and include a whiteboard for presentations or brainstorming sessions. There are also meeting notes, chat, an integrated calendar, and file-sharing support.
Users can even import their computer and keyboard into the room where a virtual version is generated. Nobody can see the screen but the owner. However, with screen sharing enabled, colleagues can see what a coworker is working on. For instance, if one is working on a design in a CAD program, they can share their computer screen to show the team their progress.
"We think VR will fundamentally transform the way we work as a new computing platform, defying distance to help people collaborate better from anywhere. Horizon Workrooms is a big first step towards this vision," said the company blog.
Facebook says it has already been using the app internally and just released it in an open beta. Workers can signup at Facebook's Workrooms website. After creating an account, users can download the app. They can then invite coworkers via email to join their workroom or join already created rooms by invite only.
Facebook does not have the best privacy reputation in the business, but it promises not to use conversations or meeting materials for advertising purposes. Images and videos passed through the app for the purposes of environment tracking are not seen by the social media giant or third-party advertisers.
Developers are also openly invited to use Horizon Workrooms features in their own apps. Currently, only hand tracking and spatial audio are available. However, Facebook says it's busy making avatars, Passthrough, mixed-reality desk, and tracked keyboard features available to app makers.