As virtual reality (VR) adoption takes off, more and more investment will be made in building products for “the metaverse.” This new digital world presents huge opportunities for improving how we communicate and work together.
The developments in VR technology over the past decade are nothing short of amazing. The Meta Quest, in-particular, is awesome. High-quality video, spatial audio, and wireless. You can easily spend hours getting lost playing Fruit Ninja or feel your heart rate start to soar while soaring over building tops like Superman.
When you first think of this technology, a ton of consumer use cases immediately come to mind: gaming, entertainment, and, of course, social events.
However, the more the technology improves, the easier it is to imagine using VR for several work use cases, ranging from VR video calls to collaborative VR working sessions, even to fully immersive VR conferences with speakers and exhibitors.
While there have been huge strides in the quality of our video conferencing tools, especially market leader Zoom, it can still feel unnatural to collaborate. Some of the issues that make it hard to collaborate well over video conferencing include the sound quality, the distractions, and the inability to make eye contact.
Let’s start with the sound quality. Most video conferencing products utilize some function of smoothing and isolating sound coming from the attendees to improve the overall quality of the audio. However, this can end up feeling unnatural because it doesn’t allow people to (naturally) talk over each other. In virtual reality, on the other hand, you not only have noise-cancelling headphones but also spatial audio. This means that it is almost impossible to mishear what someone says without them even needing to repeat themselves.
Then there are the distractions. When you’re in virtual reality, all of your attention is focused on your virtual environment and virtual objects; there are very few external environmental cues that can break your focus and concentration. This means you don’t need to worry about being distracted by others in the room or outside, which helps prevent unproductive multitasking (like checking email or social media).
Finally, virtual reality effectively allows for eye contact – something that Zoom just cannot do well! Being able to look and make eye contact with others in virtual reality can easily boost team engagement, as it helps to create a more personal connection.
Overall, virtual reality is poised to be a transformative technology not just for consumers but also for businesses looking to improve their work processes and collaboration efforts. Whether you’re holding metaverse meetings or presenting at virtual conferences, there are huge benefits to using VR over traditional video conferencing tools.
The brilliance of Meta Quest is in its ability to use graphics and sound in harmony to make presence feel real. Let’s dig into each.
The graphic quality is very high, which makes it easy to feel fully immersed in a scene. The headset also makes it relatively easy to adjust the focus to tune the view to your liking.
As you move your head around a scene and take in the three-dimensional digital world around you, it truly feels real, in this bizarre but familiar way. The graphics respond very naturally and quickly to the physical movements you make with your head. You look up with the headset on, you see the “ceiling” in the digital world. It’s very satisfying to look around a scene like your eyes naturally move around a room and it helps make the digital feel real.
The spatial audio adds to the sense of place in a big way. No matter the scene you are in, sound plays an important role. In a forest scene, it could be the sounds of nature, with birds chirping in every direction around you. When you are in a metaverse meeting room, the sound comes from other people in the room very naturally and mimics the sound of being in a room with a group. The quality of the sound truly enables better communication and more natural conversation. There is something about it that just feels more intimate.
Meta’s work meeting room product, Workrooms, is a simple and effective meeting space, tailor-made for work meetings in the metaverse.
The options for room configuration are relatively basic, but they all look great and function well. The virtual conference rooms can be customized with virtual versions of typical office furniture, such as tables, chairs, and whiteboards. You can also customize the virtual environment with lighting and other environmental effects such as background music or ambient noise. This allows you to create an atmosphere that best fits the purpose of your virtual conference room.
For larger virtual reality business meetings, Horizon Workrooms allows for up to 20 participants in a single virtual space. There is an option to expand the size of a room if needed and all attendees can contribute equally by speaking directly into their headsets which provide a feeling more like an in-person meeting than traditional video conferencing solutions.
In addition, Horizon Workrooms provides several advanced features designed to provide maximum efficiency during metaverse meetings. There is no need for everyone in attendance to use the same device; instead, users can join from any computer or VR device using their web browsers or dedicated mobile apps. The virtual environment also includes features such as 3D annotations and real-time collaboration on digital documents which allow teams to not only have effective conversations but also share information quickly and easily within their virtual space.
Two features stick out as useful in the Workrooms product: screen sharing and the whiteboard.
Screen sharing, when paired with the Quest desktop app, is relatively easy. Everyone in the room will see your screen as if it were on a wall-mounted TV in a physical meeting room. This screen-sharing approach is so cool because it lets everyone see shared content, but the room still functions well for conversation. Typically on a web video conference, the shared content takes up the whole screen, making it hard to see attendees. With this approach, it’s more natural to have a discussion when content is being shared. This helps make information-rich content more natural and accessible.
The whiteboard feature is also well done. There are two modes to use the whiteboard: standing up at the board, and desk drawing. When you go stand at the whiteboard, you can go solo, or anyone in the room can join you at the board. When an attendee stands next to you, you can very much feel their presence and, as you would expect, the audio from that attendee shifts to sound like they are standing to your right or left. If you don’t want to rise to go up to the board, you can also draw on the whiteboard by using your desk as a canvas. Anything you draw on your desk canvas will be reflected on the whiteboard in the room.
These standout features do help make working in the metaverse natural, more collaborative, and, in many ways, more engaging.
Like Zoom, being in a meeting that goes for more than an hour is pushing the limit of what is enjoyable.
After wearing the headset for that long, even though the unit is relatively lightweight, you are ready to take it off. A lot of it, at least in my experience, is the strain on the eyes.
The other challenge of using Quest for work is the price tag. It’s priced modestly at a $349 entry point, but that’s still a cost above and beyond a computer (which most employees already need and use heavily) and free web video conferencing software.
The Meta Quest is a surprisingly great tool to add to your work toolkit. If you have a remote team and are looking for ways to make the team feel closer and more collaborative, the Quest can help move you and your team in that direction.