Office and work evolve with VR conferences – Check out Facebook’s “Horizon Workrooms” VR conference room – CNET Japan

Due to the spread of novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19), many companies and business people are reviewing their working styles. By actively introducing web conferencing and telecommuting, not only companies that show a transition position towards work styles based on telecommuting and remote work, but also the design of offices in view of new work styles can be views. ..

Web conferencing using video phone services such as Zoom has started to permeate Japan, and as long as you are connected to the Internet, you can continue the conference while watching the other party’s face regardless of location. or the number of participants, PC It is also possible to share the above materials. Once you get used to this mechanism and these tools, it seems that even the concept of going to work will soon disappear.

However, the current situation is not so simple, and the web conferencing system currently in use does not completely replace analog face-to-face meetings. For example, in a remote work survey conducted by Lightblue Technology in April 2020, 53% of respondents answered that “web conferencing is more careful than face-to-face conferencing” and “web conferencing is more tiring “. Or 55%. The problems with web conferencing are that non-verbal communication is difficult, it is difficult to speak, and it is difficult to understand the reaction of the other party. In particular, many Japanese people are unfamiliar with web conferencing due to the emphasis on non-verbal communication, as the word “read the air” is used.

From such a point, I believe that web conferencing should be used properly depending on the situation because there is no idea to replace face-to-face meetings, but it is only one of the methods of face-to-face meetings or completely new meetings.

Overwhelming “meeting” feeling of VR conference

VR conferences draw attention to this. In VR meetings, it is expected that meetings can be held in a more face-to-face manner than web meetings, as the other party can talk through the avatar as if it is in front of them.

Among the many VR conferences, the one that has been talked about recently is the social VR “Horizon Workrooms” (beta version) promoted by Facebook. If the communication environment is in place, you can participate from anywhere. Even if you don’t have a VR HMD (Head Mounted Display), you can still participate in a web conference if you have a desktop computer.

Photo of the Horizon workshops taken by the author

Photo of the Horizon workshops taken by the author

You can also chat in a space like a cool company office, draw diagrams on the whiteboard, and share pictures and materials. It depends on personal internet environment, but I don’t feel much lag when talking or moving. In addition, what I feel is very different from the conventional web conference is that the direction and distance are reflected in the voice, and the direction of listening and the direction of speaking are almost the same. When someone starts talking, it’s no different from having a face-to-face physical encounter to naturally turn to them. Also, in a web conference, when one person speaks, everyone should turn to the listener, but in a VR conference, conversations between close people start and each group It is easy to have a conversation. I felt a problem was how to design a chat in a web conference, but I think that area has been solved in a VR conference. There is a sense of realism and it feels like being side by side. Also, because the avatar’s mouth moves in sync as if speaking Japanese realistically, it feels like it communicates with the people who have gathered in the same room. In other words, it had everything people wanted, “Meetings have to be face-to-face.”

In-depth user experience

How the writer writes letters with the controller

How the writer writes letters with the controller

Horizon Workrooms seemed to recreate the essence of what is called a “meeting”. Of course, in Horizon Workrooms, you will join the meeting as your avatarized self, so the real visual information at that time will be lost, but conversely, that part will become the unique value of the VR meeting.

Horizon Workrooms claims to use 3D audio, but it has noise cancellation and the audio is very clear.

Another thing that impressed me was the “whiteboard” feature. There is a huge whiteboard in front of the VR conference room, and you can press a button to move it in front of the whiteboard to write or not, and it will be synchronized with the whiteboard on your desktop. and you can write like a pen tablet. Here one thing, the design of holding the controller in the opposite hand and writing with the handle as if it were a pen, became “Oh!”. As with all VR apps, when drawing something in VR space, the feeling of holding a pen was weak with the usual way of holding a controller. Normally, it was different from the feeling of human beings drawing letters and pictures in everyday life, but I smiled obediently at the design UX like holding a pen while turning that controller in the wrong direction.

Future expectations

Photo of the Horizon workshops taken by the author

Photo of the Horizon workshops taken by the author

For Horizon Workrooms, we are currently registering an account and setting up a meeting room called “Workroom” to invite other members. This invitation system seemed a bit complicated. Invite Zoom. The Workroom URL is broadcast and sent to participants, but even if the person who wants to participate accesses from this URL, it is only accessible by video call, and it seems difficult to access it with Quest 2 at first view. is made. Especially for those who are not very familiar with the tools, this will be a big obstacle. Also, as with all VR apps, if you keep using it for a long time, your eyes will get tired and you’ll still be worried about the weight of the HMD. I think it will be some time before everyone can use it.

VR conferences are not yet adopted for everything, but I have found them to be particularly suitable for internal and external social gatherings such as workshops and debriefing sessions to deepen mutual understanding. From such a place, I can’t wait for virtual reality to become more pervasive in society and people.

Hiromasa Saito

CEO of Steins Inc. and CTO

Completed MSc in Physics, Estonian National University, TalTech University of Technology. Starting a business in a local co-ordinating business while attending school. At the doctoral school, engaged in research on the numerical analysis of literature and the research and development of small artificial satellites. He has won many prizes at hackathons in Estonia and has taken to the stage. We focus on art-related VR/AI activities such as VR museum. Former tennis coach.

Twitter @T_I_SHOW

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