You sit at the kitchen table, slip your Virtual Reality (VR) headset over your head and enter your immersive workspace, which today, you decide, will be an idyllic tropical beach.
Ahead of you, three IMAX cinema-sized display screens hover above the picturesque azure shoreline; one shows a report you’re creating, another your personalised news feed and the third your inbox and calendar – everything you need for your virtual office.
Suddenly, a meeting reminder appears from the sand. With a pinch of your fingers, you’re transported to the familiar surroundings of a company meeting room - an exact digital replica. Inside, cheerful avatars of your global teammates, created using 3D scans, warmly welcome you with a round of high-fives. And, for a few seconds it feels real and you completely forget that, just like you, they too are all working from their homes; alone and thousands of miles apart.
This is not science fiction (Ready Player One: The Cappuccino Years), but Facebook’s Infinite Office; a new approach to remote homeworking that the tech giant wants us all to adopt following last week’s release of the Quest 2 – its latest standalone all-in-one, full-VR device.
Facebook is just one of the many tech giants investing heavily in immersive technologies and championing Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality technologies as the successors to traditional flat screen computing.
Speaking at Facebook’s Connect conference on Wednesday, Maria Fernandez Guajardo, Director of Work, said Infinite Office will start to rollout to Oculus for Business and Facebook Workplace customers over the next few months.
The Quest 2 – One device to rule them all?
With the release of Quest 2 and Infinite Office, Facebook is seeking to secure a leading position in B2B immersive tech, as well as the consumer markets.
The Quest 2 is the first standalone device to give users all the benefits of high-end VR, e.g. interactive 3D collaboration and learning, along with the features and tools required for everyday computing. To encourage more people to get into VR, Facebook has set the price of the basic Quest 2 at £299.99 ($299) - making it comparable to many low-spec laptops.
For business users, the Quest 2 has the following features that combine to make it a serious alternative to the traditional business laptop – at least in theory:
An optional physical keyboard that can be seen in VR – a first for VR!
State-of-the-art hand-tracking technology, removing the need for a mouse.
The ability to use multiple virtual screens, resize and snap them to a real-world environment, saving cost and space compared to using expensive and fixed physical screens.
A built-in VR web browser and a growing range of apps that give users access to tools, such as Google Docs.
Lockdowns mean many more of us have had the chance to experience the pros and cons of working outside of the office. But it doesn’t seem to matter where in the world you are, most surveys about remote working seem to reach the same conclusion: most knowledge workers want to avoid a return to the daily commute to work.
Similarly, the same surveys reveal consistencies in the challenges homeworkers face:
No face-to-face time with colleagues
A shortage of appropriate space to work,
Too many distractions
Infinite Office and other virtual reality devices may help solve many of these issues.
So, what’s not to love?
There will be a number of organisations that will issue Quest 2s because being an early adopter is key to their brand. There are, however, still many unknowns around the device, including technical information such as battery life, health implications of prolonged use for work and accessibility.
Also, the surprisingly low $299 price tag has led some experts to suggest that Facebook is not looking to make a profit from hardware sales, but instead profit from the untapped seam of users’ data (including sensitive biometrics) the Quest 2 collects.
They cite the recent move by the social media company to require all Quest users to have a Facebook account to use the device as evidence of this. To get an account, all users must grant Facebook permission to collect their data. This controversial step has already led to a halt of Quest 1 and 2 sales in Germany because it conflicts with GDPR.
Digital Immersive experiences are subjective and, ultimately, the success of Infinite Office will be determined by testimonies from early adopters and influencers on whether it actually delivers the comfort, productivity, flexibility and connectivity Facebook claims.
The age of immersive spatial computing
What’s certain, however, is that immersive technology is here today and here to stay. Recent unprecedented global lifestyle changes and continued investment in immersive tech have accelerated our transition into the next age of computing – the immersive and spatial age.
Whether it's virtual, augmented or mixed reality, if you’d like to find out about what immersive technologies could mean for you and your business and explore the exciting opportunities it’s creating in your industry, sector or profession, then please get in touch.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear whether you'd swap your laptop for a Quest 2? If not, then what features would you need to make it possible for you to work in VR?