Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg — a real, human man who works — understands the plight of those who work remotely. The 37-year-old founder of one of the world’s largest companies is actually working remotely as you read this. But unlike you or me, Zuckerberg’s home office is in the metaverse. Zuckerberg on Facebook today teased an upcoming software update to the Quest 2’s Horizon Home that includes a home office space. It looks kind of like a Blue Bottle Coffee, or maybe a dentist’s office. But it’s in VR, you see.
It’s becoming glaringly clear that Zuckerberg wants the future of work to look like the world’s most boring VR video game. It's less boot stamping on a human face forever, and more expensive, inconvenient solution in search of a problem. According to Zuckerberg, workers can use the metaverse office to take “Messenger calls, read emails or work on your next big project.” It’s also true that most of us can do those tasks just fine on our computers. But imagine the productivity boost you’ll get doing all these mundane tasks while strapped to a Quest 2 headset!
Meta’s Horizon, for those who don’t know, is a group of three social VR apps that rolled out last December. It includes Horizon Worlds (user-created experiences), Horizon Venues (sports and concerts) and Horizon Workrooms (work). They resemble 3D social playplaces, where users create their own avatars and interact with each other (all the while keeping a four-foot personal boundary from each other.) As of February, Worlds and Venues had around 300,000 users, against an estimated 10 million Quest 2 headsets sold. Dismal numbers, some might say. A company spokesperson would not disclose many people — including Meta employees — currently use Workrooms in any capacity.
Working in VR is still a relatively novel concept, mostly because it’s been terrible so far. If you’re curious about what kind of work applications are available in VR for Quest 2, there are still only a handful — two of which are Facebook and Instagram (both in beta). There are also apps for spreadsheets (Smartsheet), visual collaboration (MURAL), email (Spike) and VR versions of Dropbox and Slack.
If you want to know what it feels like to read your emails in VR, Lifewire took one for the team. While reading emails can become grating in the real world, the Quest 2 speedruns the experience and gets "uncomfortable after half an hour." Spike's VR app also lacks the ability to attach files to an email, a feature that has been available outside the metaverse since 1998.
While Workplaces might seem to an outsider like a complicated, physically nauseating way to perform tasks most people already hate doing, what matters most is how the product is being received by Meta's audience.
“I really don't see the point of it? Why would you need to do office work in a virtual world? It looks great for sure, but that's about it,” wrote one user in the comments to Zuckerberg's post.
From another enthused user: "How primal and old-fashioned. It looks like the futuristic spaces of the 80's lol. Who in their right mind will waste their time on this."
As dubious as a VR-enabled workspace may be, there’s still more interest than ever in all that virtual reality entails. IDC reported that more than 11.2 million VR/AR headsets were sold in 2021, a 92.1 percent increase from the year prior. The newly rebranded Meta Quest 2 (formerly known as the Oculus Quest 2) hit stores this week. The Quest 2 is currently the world’s best-selling VR headset, but that could change when Sony, Apple and other tech giants enter the space.
While we can't know for sure how much Meta has spent developing digital cubicles specifically, the company plans to sink at least $10 billion in metaverse projects this year alone. For reference, WeWork —essentially a mass subletter of actual, physical offices — went public on a valuation of $9 billion — although simply buying up companies may no longer be a viable growth strategy.