Are we ready to work in the Metaverse?

In the past week, Meta has multiplied announcements about work 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 lives. However, there are reasons 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 metaverse, this still vaguely defined concept that he considers the future of the Internet. At its annual conference, Connect, last week, the American giant has made many announcements about work in this universe of virtual worlds which we will have access to thanks to virtual, augmented and mixed reality headsets.

Despite these announcement effects, the reality for Meta’s metaverse is not so good, and the question is whether it is really possible to work on it… and if we are ready to do so.

For the Californian group, work in the metaverse will be done, among other things, using the new mixed reality headset, Meta Quest Pro. He claims that this device “is designed to improve collaboration and productivity”. It allows users to find themselves in virtual worlds without disconnecting from the real world, peripheral vision remains unobstructed. Thus they are able to see their immediate environment, on which 3D elements are superimposed, and use their 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, it delivers “A much stronger sense of presence than traditional video calls” during virtual meetings, with avatars capable of expressing non-verbal signs. Specifically, when a person smiles, winks, or raises an eyebrow, their digital version is supposed to do the same.

Meta further announced a partnership with Microsoft – one of her metaverse competitors – to offer the firm’s services in its virtual universe. For starters, the company’s software packages (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) will soon be usable with the Meta headset. In addition, the collaborative communication app, Teams, will be integrated directly into Horizon workrooms (virtual sharing rooms), allowing users to participate in immersive meetings and, later, join a Teams meeting directly from these rooms. And, from 2023, users will be able to join them via Zoom.

Meta also specifically targets architects, designers, and other creatives. From next year, the American giant will allow them to view 3D models in Horizon Workrooms. The firm partners with Adobe and Autodesk, which publish 3D creation software, for this purpose. Finally, Meta is working on a project called The Magic Room, “A mixed reality experience (…) that allows any group of people, some gathered in a physical room and others remotely, to collaborate”. It could be available as early as 2023.

An overview of Meta’s Magic Rooms.© Meta

Among the advantages and disadvantages

This is how the meta sells us the dream, especially since the advantages of working in the metaverse are numerous. In addition to improved productivity, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can prevent employee distraction, especially if they work in an open space. With the former, they could stay focused by being in a personal virtual office. The same would happen with the second one, with the integration of “virtual dividers” in the physical workplace. In addition, the ability to customize your work environment in VR is a way to reduce stress, for example by simulating spaces filled with greenery. This is explained by researchers who wanted to study the effects of working in VR for a long period of time 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 per day, with a 45-minute lunch break. Realized 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 actually had to drop out of school on 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 their VR work week. They also reported a 20% decrease in well-being and felt less productive compared to their work week in a physical environment.

Despite this study showing that working in the metaverse has more than just advantages, virtual Meta platforms are still far from ready. Earlier this year, employees including Andrew Bosworth, Meta’s CTO, who traveled to Horizon Workrooms for a meeting were forced to switch to Zoom due to technical issues, it has been revealed. of New York Times beginning of October. Worlds of the Horizonthe company’s flagship VR platform, has many quality issues, as recently revealed by the media threshold. “Feedback from creators, users, testers, and many of our team members shows 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, the company’s vice president of metaverse in an internal memo dated Sept. 15, which was obtained by the media.

The metaverse of Meta involves many problems.©Diego Thomazini / Shutterstock/

Worse, even Meta’s own employees aren’t keen on his metaverse. According to a May survey of 1,000 of them, 58% do not understand the company’s metaverse strategy. Many of them also spend some time there. “For many of us, we don’t spend much time on Horizon (…) Why don’t we like the product we’ve created enough to use it all the time? The simple truth is that if we don’t like it, how can we expect our users to like it? », asked Vishal Shah. In another memo issued 15 days later, he announced the development of a plan for it “Make Managers Accountable” so that their teams use Horizon Worlds at least once a week.

Hardware to access the metaverse can also be problematic. A Bloomberg reporter after attending 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 which is integrated in the helmet, while in the Meta Quest Pro it is placed in the bow, or in the back of the head. Despite this design, weight remains an issue, as the firm’s new helmet is heavier than its predecessor (722 grams). After testing for 2 hours, a journalist from Washington Post said that the device had left marks on his forehead, but also that he was suffering from a headache. Another issue: The Bloomberg reporter reported that the headset messed up her makeup, prompting her to wonder how many Meta employees work in VR and wear makeup every day.

If Meta bets a lot on the metaverse and wants us to work in this virtual universe, leading us to believe that it would be practical for hybrid work, the reality is much less beautiful. Given the many problems, we are still far from the day when working in the metaverse will present only advantages.

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