Over the past week, Meta multiplied the job advertisements in the metaverse, suggesting that it would now be possible and even beneficial to turn to these virtual worlds for this important part of our daily life. However, there is reason to remain skeptical.
At a time when hybrid work has taken hold, Meta, or rather its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, wants to push us to work in the metaverse, this still vaguely defined concept that considers the future of the Internet. At its annual conference, Connect, last week, the American giant made many announcements about work in this universe of virtual worlds to which we will have access in particular thanks to headsets for virtual, augmented and mixed reality.
Despite these ad effects, the reality about Meta’s metaverse is not that good and one wonders if it’s really possible to work on it … and if we’re ready to do it.
For the Californian group, the work in the metaverse will be done, among other things, using its new mixed reality viewer, the Meta Quest Pro. “was designed with the aim of improving collaboration and productivity”. It allows users to find themselves in virtual worlds without being cut off from the real world, while keeping peripheral vision free. They are thus able to see their surroundings, on which 3D elements are superimposed, and to use the physical keyboard and mouse to work on virtual screens.
Meta Quest Pro also features an eye and face tracking system that allows avatars in the metaverse to replicate users’ facial expressions. According to the company, this gives “a much stronger sense of presence than traditional video calls” during virtual encounters, with avatars capable of expressing non-verbal signs. Specifically, when a person smiles, winks or raises an eyebrow, their digital version should do the same.
Meta also announced a partnership with Microsoft, one of its competitors in the metaverse field, to offer the company’s services in its virtual universe. For starters, the company’s software suites (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) will soon be usable with Meta headsets. In addition, the collaborative communication application, Teams, will be integrated directly into Horizon Workrooms (virtual work rooms), allowing users to participate in immersive meetings and, subsequently, to join a Teams meeting directly from these rooms. And, from 2023, users will be able to join them via Zoom.
Meta is also specifically aimed at architects, designers and other creators. From next year, the American giant will allow them to view 3D models in Horizon Workrooms. The company collaborates with Adobe and Autodesk, which publishes 3D creation software, for this purpose. Finally, Meta is working on a project called Magic Room, “A mixed reality experience (…) that allows any group of people, some gathered in a physical room and others remotely, to collaborate”. It may be available as early as 2023.
Between advantages and disadvantages
Meta sells us dreams, especially since the advantages of working in the metaverse are numerous. In addition to improving productivity, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can prevent employees from being distracted, especially if they work in an open space. With the former, they could stay focused by being in a personal virtual office. This would also be the case in the second, with the integration of “virtual separators” in the physical workplace. Furthermore, being able to customize your work environment in VR is a way to reduce stress, with the simulation of spaces full of greenery for example. This is explained by researchers who have wanted to study the effects of work in VR for a long time in an article published in June.
They conducted an experiment with 18 participants who worked for one week in a virtual environment and another in a physical environment, for a duration of 8 hours a day, with a 45-minute lunch break. Performed with the Meta Quest 2 helmet, this experience, on the contrary, showed the disadvantages of virtual reality, such as the harmful effects of this technology on health. Two participants were in fact forced to leave the first day due to nausea, migraines and anxiety. The rest reported a 48% increase in eye strain and a 42% increase in frustration levels during the VR work week. They also reported a 20% decline in well-being and felt less productive than their work week in a physical environment.
In addition to this study showing that working in the metaverse has more than just benefits, Meta’s virtual platforms are still far from ready. Earlier this year, employees including Andrew Bosworth, CTO of Meta, who went to Horizon Workrooms for a meeting were forced to switch to Zoom due to technical issues, the report revealed. New York Times early October. Horizon Worlds, the company’s leading VR platform, has many quality issues, as the media recently revealed. The border. “Feedback from creators, users, testers and many of our team members points to the weight of frustrating little things, stability issues and bugs that make it impossible for our community to experience the magic of Horizon.”wrote Vishal Shah, vice president of the company’s metaverse in an internal memo dated Sept. 15, obtained by the media.
Worse still, even Meta’s employees themselves aren’t in love with his metaverse. According to a May poll of 1,000 of them, 58% don’t understand the company’s metaverse strategy. Many of them also spend little time there. “For many of us we don’t spend a lot of time on Horizon (…) Why don’t we like the product we created enough to always use it? The simple truth is that if we don’t like it, how can we expect our users to like it? “, questioned Vishal Shah. In another memo published 15 days later, he announced the development of a plan for “making managers accountable” so that their teams use Horizon Worlds at least once a week.
The equipment to enter the metaverse can also be problematic. A Bloomberg reporter who attended the company’s conference with the Meta Quest 2 headset mentioned facial pain due to the weight (503 grams) of the device. A problem related to the battery that is integrated into the helmet, while on the Meta Quest Pro it is housed in the arch or in the back of the head. Despite this design, weight remains an issue, as the company’s new helmet is heavier than its predecessor (722 grams). After testing it for 2 hours, a reporter from Washington Post he said the device had left marks on his forehead, but also that he suffered from headaches. Another problem: The Bloomberg reporter reported that her viewer ruined her makeup, causing her to wonder how many Meta employees work in VR and wear makeup every day.
If Meta is betting a lot on the metaverse and wants us to work in this virtual universe, making us believe that it would be practical for hybrid work, the reality is much less beautiful. Given the many problems, we are still a long way from the day when working in the metaverse will only have advantages.