The open beta for Facebook’s remote collaboration platform is available now on Oculus Quest 2 headsets.
Facebook today unveiled Horizon Workrooms, a robust VR coworking platform bursting at the seams with game-changing features that could set the groundwork for a new generation of remote collaboration. The company’s mixed reality office can accommodate everyone from smaller independent teams to larger groups using a suite of impressive abilities.
Available now in open beta, Horizon Workrooms allows you to communicate and collaborate with your coworkers from anywhere around the world while maintaining the same sense of intimacy you’d feel during an in-person meeting. This is achieved using a variety of unique features exclusive to the Oculus Quest 2, such as Oculus desk, keyboard, and hand tracking technology.
Horizon Workrooms includes a variety of useful features, including mixed reality desk and keyboard tracking, video conferencing, wireless desktop streaming, hand tracking, and spatial audio just to name a few. You can take notes using a personal and public whiteboard, conduct presentations, even import text, images, and video files using the Horizon Workrooms companion app.
I had the chance to participate in a virtual meeting earlier this week alongside a handful of other users located across the globe, and while our conference was short, I already find myself craving more of this multifaceted platform.
Setup was surprisingly easy. In addition to the Oculus Quest app, Horizon Workrooms features a dedicated pairing app available free on Windows PC and Mac. Once installed, you’re then required to make a free Horizon Workrooms account. This web-based app serves as the central hub of Horizon Workrooms. Here you can chat with coworkers, create and join private rooms, upload files, and record notes of the meeting in real-time.
Upon logging into the press meeting, I found myself surrounded by other users tuning in from across the globe, each of whom brought to life via Facebook’s new Oculus avatars.
Interactions with other users felt incredibly natural thanks to key improvements to character animations and lip-synching; not to mention the excellent use of spatial audio. After just five minutes, I felt completely at home in Facebook’s virtual meeting spaces. I say “meeting spaces” plural because Horizon Workrooms features several different rooms designed to meet a variety of needs. Whether you’re looking to converse, collaborate, or present, Horizon Workrooms has a seating arrangement for you.
In addition to selecting a layout manually, these spaces will automatically configure themselves based on the number of people in the room. According to Facebook, Horizon Workrooms features support for up to 16 people in VR. Those without a VR headset can also join via a standard video call using the Horizon Workrooms web app. All in all, a total of 50 participants can join a single room at one time.
Regardless of which layout you choose, you’ll have access to your own personal workspace. Arguably the most impressive aspect of the platform, this dedicated work area employs a variety of Oculus technologies to deliver a seamless productivity experience unlike anything available at the moment. You can access your desktop remotely and share your screen with other users, change your personal settings, even draw and take notes by flipping the Touch controller around and using the end as a makeshift stylus. Most of this can be controlled using the Touch controllers or—for a more immersive experience—Oculus hand tracking.
Thanks to Oculus passthrough technology, you can now type in VR without having to take your headset off. This works for any keyboard you may be using. For those with a Macbook, Apple Magic Keyboard, or Logitech K830 US version, you can actually access a 3D model of your real-world keyboard in VR. Not only is seeing my MacBook in VR a cool visual experience, but it also made typing significantly easier, something another user without a compatible keyboard was quick to comment on.
If you need to share your thoughts with the group, you can move from a seated position to the front of the group where you can share your computer screen, access individual files uploaded to the Horizon Workrooms web app, and take notes on a virtual whiteboard. Similar to desk tracking, you can customize the position of the whiteboard to better fit your physical space. I, for instance, have mine situated directly behind my real-world desk; all I have to do is pick up my controllers, turn around, and boom! I’m now presenting in front of a multifunctional VR whiteboard viewable to everyone in the room. Any notes or drawings you make on the whiteboard will remain there until they’re deleted. You can even export your whiteboard out of VR and into the Workrooms web app for later use.
Whereas past VR coworking solutions have fallen short in providing a seamless remote collaboration experience due to a variety of limitations, Horizon Workrooms makes excellent use of existing Oculus Quest technology to deliver what could be considered the most robust VR coworking solution on the Oculus Quest 2.
According to Facebook, the company has been utilizing Horizon Workrooms internally for about six months. The company says that Horizon Workrooms is just the start of a much larger “metaverse” composed of various applications and experiences.
“We hope that developers are excited to use many of the same features seen in Workrooms in their own apps, and we’re working hard to bring them to our platform as well,” said the company in an official blog post. “You can already start by using our hand tracking and spatial audio features in your own apps today. And we’re working to bring avatars, Passthrough, mixed-reality desk, and tracked keyboard capabilities to the platform too. We’re excited to continue growing the VR for work ecosystem, and we hope that Workrooms serves as inspiration for how these features can work together.
Horizon Workrooms is available now in open beta on Oculus Quest 2 headsets. For more information on how to get started visit here.
Feature Image Credit: Facebook