Facebook launches VR remote work app

Elizabeth CullifordAAP
Users of the Workrooms app can design avatars to meet in virtual reality conference rooms.
Camera IconUsers of the Workrooms app can design avatars to meet in virtual reality conference rooms. Credit: AP

Facebook has launched a test of a new virtual reality remote work app where users of the company's headsets can hold meetings as avatar versions of themselves.

The beta test of Facebook's Horizon Workrooms app comes as many companies continue to work from home after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down physical workspaces and as a new variant is sweeping across the globe.

Facebook sees its latest launch as an early step toward building the futuristic "metaverse" that chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has touted in recent weeks.

The world's largest social network has invested heavily in virtual and augmented reality, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets, working on AR glasses and wristband technologies and buying a bevy of VR gaming studios, including BigBox VR.

Gaining dominance in this space, which Facebook bets will be the next big computing platform, will allow it to be less reliant in the future on other hardware makers, such as Apple, the company has said.

Facebook's vice president of its Reality Labs group, Andrew "Boz" Bosworth, said the new Workrooms app gives "a good sense" of how the company envisions elements of the metaverse.

"This is kind of one of those foundational steps in that direction," Bosworth told reporters during a VR news conference.

The term "metaverse," coined in the 1992 dystopian novel Snow Crash, is used to describe immersive, shared spaces accessed across different platforms where the physical and digital converge. Zuckerberg has described it as an "embodied internet".

It has been referenced in several recent earnings calls by tech chief executives including Zuckerberg, Microsoft's Satya Nadella, gaming company Roblox's David Baszucki and Match Group's Shar Dubey, who have talked about how their companies could shape aspects of this futuristic realm.

In its first full VR news briefing, the company showed how Workrooms users can design avatar versions of themselves to meet in virtual reality conference rooms and collaborate on shared whiteboards or documents, still interacting with their own physical desk and computer keyboard.

The app, free through the Oculus Quest 2 headsets which cost about $US300 ($A420), allows up to 16 people together in VR and up to 50 total including video conference participants.

Bosworth said Facebook was now using Workrooms regularly for internal meetings.

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