If the meeting isn’t necessarily getting shorter, it’s going to be more innovative. At VivaTech, the Meta group is presenting its vision of the metaverse, these virtual worlds, which the American group wants to become a reference for with its Horizons.
His prescription? Make these universes more immersive thanks to the contribution of virtual reality powered by Oculus headsets. A testament to the interest and curiosity surrounding this brand new concept, the large Meta booth is always packed, especially to try out Horizon Workrooms, the ‘metaverted’ meeting rooms.
How does it work? We’re sitting in an office, putting on the Quest 2 headset, and heading to a meeting around a virtual table with pretty well-designed avatars. Faces and bodies move well and the cartoon feel wears off quickly.
The joysticks are only used to access the user interface and they are placed in front of you. Technology has taken a giant leap forward recently with hand tracking. The helmet recognizes them and follows all movements perfectly, right down to the fingertips. This reactivity reinforces the immersion in virtuality and everything quickly becomes natural.
We turn to our table neighbor, the host of our meeting, who leads the guests to the Master with the first gestures. The speech is clear and our conversation partner seems very close. “The spatialization of sound is the most important element in our metaverse,” explains Antoine Bordes, director of Meta’s AI research laboratory. “This will restore complicity and spontaneity in the exchange, only missing avatars that are more photorealistic and able to project the non-verbal as raised eyebrows,” he assures.
Hearing another person on the other side of the table with a slightly more distant sound actually changes the perception of the room and mimics a classic meeting where everyone is speaking more or less loudly. The decor changes in the blink of an eye: this “meeting” is exported to a beach or to the heart of a futuristic city. On the left, a screen broadcasts live video, while on the right, a large board is used to showcase the day’s ideas.
In workrooms, you can also grab a virtual pen to draw on or jot down traces during a “brainstorm.” The tool is therefore very collaborative and reactive. Problem: The controller disconnects just when it’s our turn to try this pen, the “tracking” is lost and the application crashes.
The experience is objectively more impressive than assumed a priori, as Meta has made strides towards getting as close as possible to a physical meeting. Next step: a meeting in mixed reality, where the metaverse overlays the office environment. Meta’s next helmet, called Cambria, should take us into that future of work starting next school year.