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.