Is Meta’s Horizon workspace productive? Customers Say Yes… and No
It’s a rhetorical question, but LeBeau’s statements when we met in the Office for an interview a few weeks ago suggest that he opposes the premise. For one thing, people don’t spend their entire lives in VR—sessions typically last 15 minutes to an hour, rarely more than two hours, he says. The average cost is much lower than many smartphones, which have dropped significantly since The first generation Oculus Rift launched in 2016 for $600.
And though LeBeau declined to share specific figures, he says it helps keep remote teams, who want to work together to solve problems, seemingly face-to-face. He said the updates planned for 2023 will make Workrooms more appealing to hybrid teams. These include an option to view 3D models and mixed reality experiences, called the Magic Room, which allows on-site and remote employees to collaborate in the same shared space. Integration with Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Windows also on the road in 2023.
Initial testers have mixed views on whether the product is ready for prime time. Trevor Ainge, a content and communications specialist at s2s, says the first-person view of the Office—the feeling of taking up the same space as your co-worker and having to turn around to meet someone’s gaze— is a marked improvement over Zoom or WebEX.
“In particular, one of the things I struggled with was the performance aspect of communicating when you were looking at the screen and seeing yourself, and Workrooms completely solved that problem for me,” says Ainge. “I find the connection much more natural.”
Others are less convincing. “What you’re missing is the emotional part, because nobody recognizes your face,” said Sergey Toporov, a partner at London-based investment firm LETA Capital, which tested the software on last summer, said. “They have pretty good lip-syncing, it looks natural when you talk, but when you stop talking, you start laughing a little bit, which is weird.”
The virtual blackboard has also received complaints from early testers. While s2s planned to continue using the software, LETA Capital dropped it after noticing that users could not interact with financial models in Google Sheets while they were on a virtual blackboard. The digital rendering board, which must be set up before entering the Workroom, can be written on by flipping one of the two Quest controllers upside down and using it as a pen. But anything you write on the board, or sticky notes you might attach to it, is just overlay; they do not change the original file being displayed.
“Your first movement is to grab your finger or grab your Oculus controller and put something in the box,” says Toporov. “But in reality, you have to go back to your laptop, even if you see the image, and use the keyboard to change the value.”
Ari Lightman, a professor of marketing and digital communications at Carnegie Mellon University who has been testing Workrooms with graduate students in her Social Measurement class, says typing in the Workroom also has can be an adventure.
“I don’t remember what that text string was, but imagine the worst autocorrect error ever. It’s all crazy and fuzzy,” he said. As a workaround, Lightman ended up removing his headset to type notes on the Meta Remote Desktop App using his physical keyboard.
Before any work can be done, there is a rather time consuming process of charging the headset (the battery takes about two and a half hours to charge and that lasts), connecting the headset to the phone app Smart Meta Quest, create an account and go through a lengthy validation series. To avoid crashing into a nearby wall or armchair, users also need to set up a laser-like 3D point cloud called a Guardian that appears when they’re near a pre-set room boundary. All of this begs the question of whether the investment is worth it for a 30-minute or an hour-long meeting, as other video conferencing platforms allow users to join without an account. by one click.