As it eyes the next stage of digital connection, and in alignment with evolving business practices, Facebook has today announced a new Horizon Workrooms VR collaboration space, which it says is ‘one of the best ways to work if you can’t be physically together’.

As explained by Facebook:

“Workrooms is a virtual meeting place that allows you and your coworkers to collaborate more effectively from any location. You can participate in a meeting in virtual reality as an avatar, or you can dial into the virtual room from your computer through a video conference call. You may collaborate on ideas by using a large virtual whiteboard, bringing your computer and keyboard into VR to collaborate with others, or simply having expressive discussions that feel more like you’re together in person.”

According to Facebook, users may connect to a Workroom either through a virtual reality avatar or through a video link, with those who connect through video rather than using a virtual reality headset displayed on a virtual video screen – ‘just like a real conference room’.

Including video participants, we can assist up to 16 individuals in virtual reality at the same time, and up to 50 persons in total on a call.

Aspects of your real-world workplace are also replicated in the Workroom experience, with participants able to use their desktop keyboard and access files on their home PC, which may then be shown within the virtual room.

Andrew Bosworth, Vice President of Facebook Reality Labs, provided the following example of a live Workrooms meeting:

Any material given on the shared VR whiteboard may be downloaded by meeting attendees, and the option also enables spatial audio, which enhances the sensory experience and replicates real-world meetings in a completely different manner.

Horizon Workrooms

Which, of course, might be an excellent match right now, given the continuous lockdowns and apparently interminable limitations on physical connection.

But even beyond the current lockdown period, the expectation is that remote work will remain an increasingly popular, and sought-after employment offering. Indeed, according to some analysts, within the next four years, around 70% of the workforce will be working remotely for at least five days every month.

The ability to work from home while simultaneously saving time on the commute is now a realistic option for many people, and it appears to be a trend that will continue in many fields, at least to some extent.

Perhaps, in that case, virtual reality meet-ups could be the ideal complement, offering a familiar sensation of physical connection and contact while dialing in from the comfort of your own home. This also coincides with Facebook’s wider aim to integrate virtual reality into its mainstream offering, taking it beyond the realm of gaming and transforming it into a more universal and useful tool.

This therefore points to the Metaverse, a digital second world that is poised to become a new reality, in many ways, for a large number of people all over the world. In the opinion of many, the Metaverse will ultimately grow into an all-encompassing digital environment where you may socialize with others, buy for items, find amusement, and even work, all without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home, if you so choose.

That obviously has broader social and economic implications, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has already staked his claim to this new virtual space, recently noting that Facebook will eventually become ‘a Metaverse company’.

The concept may still feel far-fetched, and a way off being a practical reality, but with Facebook already shipping some 5 million Oculus VR headsets (the latest Oculus Quest 2 unit has sold more than all other Oculus headsets combined), and more social and entertainment events already moving online, the time seems right for the next stage.

And it’s possible that Horizon Workrooms will play an important role in that digital image.

It’s definitely something to think about, and as virtual reality technologies become more widely available, you can guarantee that more individuals will be seeking to use them for a broader range of applications.