The Future of Work: How VR Is Changing the Way We Collaborate and Get Things Done

Oculus Blog
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October 28, 2021
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The world is changing, and the way we work has to change with it. Over the last year and a half, many of us who worked in offices have gone remote. And while we miss seeing the people we work with physically, hybrid and remote work are here to stay. Remote work means the flexibility to work from anywhere, but with that flexibility also comes unique challenges, like feelings of loneliness and isolation or difficulty focusing in distracting home environments. So we’re going to need better tools to work together—tools that let us be more productive, stay present and connected with our teammates, and maintain the flexibility of remote work. That’s where the superpowers of VR can help unlock a new way of working. Beyond the limits of today’s more mainstream technologies like smartphones and laptops, VR delivers infinite displays and a real sense of presence, so people can be more productive and collaborative from anywhere.

The Future of Work

Years down the road, the metaverse will fundamentally change the way we work, as well as how we get things done in our personal lives. In today’s Connect keynote, we shared a vision of what this future might look like. Thankfully though, we don’t have to wait to see the first steps towards those ideas realized. We’re already seeing glimpses of this future with VR technology like Quest 2 today. From features that increase your productivity in an immersive office that’s free from distractions and isn’t limited by your physical desk space, to using VR to collaborate and work together just like you would in the same room, remote work doesn’t mean what it used to.

Now, we’re focused on taking the next steps toward the metaverse as we further tap into VR’s ability to help people work better and get more done. To do that, we’re investing in a few key areas, including:

  • Making personal productivity and multi-tasking more seamless, so people can get more done.
  • Enabling richer teamwork and collaboration with a true sense of presence, so people can work better together.
  • Empowering companies to use VR in new ways as they work toward the future.

Getting More Done

To enable the metaverse of the future, VR must be a multi-purpose computing platform that can help both people and businesses do more. It should be easy to hop into VR and tackle any task with all the capabilities you need baked into the headset—just like it is with your laptop or phone today.

That’s why we’re delivering built-in capabilities for multi-tasking in the Quest system software—letting you toggle more seamlessly between productivity, entertainment, and social activities.

Over the last year we’ve introduced a number of native, system-level features that are designed to make multi-tasking easier, right in your VR Home environment. This includes the ability to bring your real keyboard and desk into VR, receive phone notifications from your favorite mobile apps so you don’t miss out on anything while you’re in the headset, and multi-task by running multiple 2D apps side-by-side in Home. All of this is useful when you’re in between rounds of Beat Saber and want to peek at your latest texts, check Move to keep an eye on your daily fitness goals, or quickly look something up in a Browser tab before jumping into your next meeting in Horizon Workrooms. Putting on a VR headset shouldn’t be a limiting experience. It should be seamlessly integrated into your daily life, putting the power to do anything right in front of you, whether for work or play.

Today we’re making Quest even more flexible—so you can do what you want, when you need to—with 2D services like Slack, Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram and more coming to the Oculus Store for the first time. That means you can get more done right in Home with this new type of panel app that brings some of your favorite 2D internet services into VR. Drop in and check on a work project while you’re in VR using apps like Dropbox and Slack, or stay better connected to your social life with apps like Facebook and Instagram.

You’ll see the first 2D apps in the Store today, including Facebook, Instagram, Smartsheet, and Spike. More apps will follow soon, like Dropbox, Monday.com, MURAL, My5 (UK), Pluto TV, and Slack.

For developers, we’re launching these apps as a new framework based on the Progressive Web App (PWA) industry standard. PWAs let a developer’s web app have the look and feel of a native app and gain access to discovery and distribution features on the Oculus Platform. This is the first time that Home becomes a platform for developers, and by helping devs bring new kinds of apps like this to Quest, we’ll continue to build a diverse ecosystem of multi-functional services that help people do more in VR.

Working Together

Another crucial component of getting work done in the metaverse is the ability to collaborate remotely with colleagues no matter where you are in the world. We’ve long known that the real magic of VR lies in its ability to defy distance by giving people a shared sense of presence. We launched Horizon Workrooms, our flagship VR collaboration experience, this past summer and we’re seeing a ton of positive feedback. Forbes called it “one of the most amazing things” they’d seen in VR, and we’re continuing to make it even better.

We recently announced that next year we’ll integrate Zoom Meeting and Zoom Whiteboard features into Workrooms—a collaboration that shows how the metaverse will extend our existing tools and combine them in new ways to enable new experiences. And earlier this week, Workrooms released v1.1, which includes more intuitive whiteboard design, instant Remote Desktop connection, and AR keyboard labels to make collaborating in VR even more seamless.

Later this year we’ll introduce customizable rooms in Workrooms, giving you the ability to choose from a wide variety of different environments to get work done, and place your own company logos or team posters in your rooms. This will let people adapt their virtual work spaces to match individual company styles, cultures, and branding guidelines. The metaverse will be constructed of spaces that are personalized to feel like your own—and this is one step in that direction.

Quest for Business

If you really want to get something done in VR, you’ll need access to your company’s business network in the headset. As we strive to make the Quest Platform more flexible for both work and personal tasks, one thing we’ve learned is that people want to use their VR headsets for more than one purpose. They don’t want to have specialized headsets only for gaming, or only for work. Instead, they want to use the same headset for personal and professional use, just like we do with our phones and laptops today. As VR becomes the next computing platform, VR headsets must be multi-functional devices for work, entertainment, social interaction, and more.

Now, we’re taking a new step to help make Quest 2 headsets more flexible tools for work, without compromising everything else they’re great at already. We’re going to begin testing Quest for Business, a new suite of features designed for businesses, delivered on the same consumer Quest 2 headset that you can buy from any retailer. Long-term, we envision Quest for Business will serve any individual, team, small to midsize business, or company that wants to use VR to improve collaboration, productivity, or remote work.

Quest for Business will be accessible via Work Accounts on Quest 2: a new, business-only way to log into Quest with a work account instead of your personal Facebook account. These Work Accounts will also provide access to other popular Facebook work products in the coming year, including Facebook Business Manager and Portal.

With Work Accounts on Quest 2, employees and teams can use VR with easy access to immersive collaboration and productivity experiences in the Oculus Store, like Horizon Workrooms, Spatial, Gravity Sketch, Arthur, Immersed, Engage, and more, along with all the 2D apps we just introduced in Home, like Dropbox and Slack. Plus, Quest for Business will provide IT teams with the dedicated platform functions they need to enable work, like account management, SSO integration, mobile device management (MDM) solutions including integration with Microsoft Intune, VMware Workspace ONE, and Ivanti UEM (formerly MobileIron)—all using the same Quest 2 headset so many people already own and love.

Because we’re building out Quest for Business and Work Accounts on Quest 2 for the first time, and we know that companies have unique needs for deploying VR to their employees, we’ll take the time to get this right. The first closed, experimental beta phase of Quest for Business will begin later this year, and we’re looking forward to testing this with a few businesses before expanding the beta in 2022. Based on feedback from our beta participants, we aim to fully launch this solution for all businesses in 2023.

With Quest for Business as a new way for businesses to deploy VR, we’ll be winding down our existing Oculus for Business program later this year. We look forward to sharing Quest for Business as a more integrated solution with our customers, letting them access the wide variety of VR experiences that weren’t available on the Oculus for Business SKU, along with the robust business tools they’ve come to expect.

The Road Ahead

Even with all this progress, there’s still a lot of work to do before we reach the long-term vision of working in the metaverse that you’ve seen gradually expand and solidify at Connect over the last several years.

One remaining sticking point, for example, is the need for better hardware. For VR to realize its full potential as a robust and meaningful technology for work, we need devices that are even more comfortable for longer wear, offer advanced optics for increased text clarity, and have more built-in sensors to enable expressive avatars for a feeling of authentic presence at work. At Connect we previewed Project Cambria, our next advanced and high-end VR product that will bring us a step closer to the metaverse. Launching next year, it will feature hardware advancements like those listed above, unlocking better ways to work and get more done in life. We’ll have more to share in the months ahead, so stay tuned.

When we give everyone the tools to be present together no matter where they are, VR will unleash a flood of creativity, new applications, and new jobs we haven’t even dreamed of—a change that can bring benefits for our society and economy. Imagine the impact on energy usage and the environment if millions of commutes could be eliminated, which would also give people more time for doing the things that matter. Imagine if you didn’t have to move away from your family or the place you grew up for the sake of a job if you didn’t want to. Giving people access to work in more places—no matter where they live—will help spread opportunity to more people and open up new possibilities for many around the world.

This is the future of work—and we’re honored to be working toward it together with you.