Since January 2022, our Platform Engineering team has been conducting our bi-weekly meetings in Virtual Reality (VR).
It started during the pandemic, after I stumbled upon an article about the launch of Meta Horizon Workroom, a beta application designed to facilitate VR remote collaboration. Immediately, I had the itch to learn more and see if the virtual space could infuse some excitement back into our meetings (let’s not forget that at this time, we frequented Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, so anything that wasn’t in 2D was considered to be exciting)!
My colleague Philippe Trépanier and I already had Meta Quest 2 VR headsets in our possession, as we experiment regularly with cutting-edge and bleeding-edge technology in our work at OSEDEA. We decided to take them for a spin in Meta Horizon Workroom and, within a few minutes, we had brought our avatars to life and kicked off our first instant meeting. Suitably breaking the ice, the first ever comment in our virtual meeting room was, “you look like a nightclub bouncer.”
In contrast to typical web conferencing tools where calls begin with participants muted and individuals can quickly slip into passive listening mode, wearing a VR headset prompted me to instantly engage. I found myself turning my head to face the speaker and actively listen, much like meetings happen in real life.
And for those who didn’t have access to a VR headset, didn’t have their VR sea legs yet, or just weren’t that keen on full immersion, Meta Horizon Workroom functions like a standard video conferencing system whereby participants see a 2D representation of what’s happening in 3D, and vice-versa.
So, how does Meta Horizon Workroom fare in a working capacity? Here’s our Platform Engineering team’s stance on how it stacks up:
- Fewer distractions - due the immersive nature of the headsets, fewer disturbances permeate from our “outside worlds” (like cats strolling across keyboards or kids-being-kids in the background)
- The world is your canvas - without the limitations of a physical workspace, we have access to a wider range of visual communication, including the ability to share 3D models and other immersive content (which is particularly useful for training, presentations, and other situations where visual aids are necessary)
- More effective communication - a greater sense of presence makes meetings feel more engaging and natural
- Greater flexibility - participants can join from anywhere with an internet connection, which is useful for those traveling or who have other scheduling constraints
- Cost and time savings - Now that we’re back to IRL work, VR has the potential to save on costs associated with commuting, work travel and accommodation, benefitting both individuals and organizations
- There’s a learning curve - if you’ve new to VR experiences, it might take some time to get used to it
- Not suitable for everyone - VR causes motion sickness and discomfort in some people
- Higher barrier to entry - since VR headsets are involved, the full experience is not as widely accessible as other video conferencing options
Overall, our team feels that VR offers a more immersive and interactive experience than traditional videoconferencing. During the thick of the pandemic when we were working from home full-time, we felt like we were in the same physical space, even when we were miles apart. The greater sense of presence made it easier for us to continue to build rapport and connect with one another, which has certainly benefited the team and our ability to collaborate.