Facebook reveals virtual reality vision for how working from home could look in the future

Adam Smith
A man uses a prototype Oculus Rift at CES 2014: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook’s head of virtual reality and augmented reality has tweeted a vision of what the company’s future might look like in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, as many companies are developing their work-from-home practises.

Andrew Bosworth tweeted that the company is “supercharging remote work and productivity” by creating a mixed reality environment.

In the tweet, Mr Bosworth shows floating displays that can be moved and re-sized via gesture control, as well as the user typing on a keyboard with a virtual taskbar over it for shortcuts, including the Windows icon and Facebook.

“This is real footage using prototype headsets. We’re always experimenting with future concepts using different hardware configurations as part of our proof-of-experience process” Bozworth also tweeted.

Virtual reality is content computer-generated in three dimensions in a digital environment, while augmented reality – or mixed reality – is digital content layered over a real-world environment, such as Pokemon Go.

The news comes as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that half of its workforce will likely work remotely over the next five to ten years.

“We need to do this in a way that’s thoughtful and responsible, so we’re going to do this in a measured way," he said. "But I think that it’s possible that over the next five to 10 years — maybe closer to 10 than five, but somewhere in that range — I think we could get to about half of the company working remotely permanently.

“VR and AR is all about giving people remote presence. So if you’re long on VR and AR and on video chat, you have to believe in some capacity that you’re helping people be able to do whatever they want from wherever they are. So I think that that suggests a worldview that would lead to allowing people to work more remotely over time.”

The company also published a blog post saying that it would create a “super-powered augmented workspace with multiple customizable screens in VR, unbounded from the limits of ​physical monitors.”

It would use Passthrough – a technology used on Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality hardware that lets you “temporarily step outside VR to see a real-time view of the world around you” - to let people switch between their real and virtual worlds with the hope that by “combining the flexibility of new inputs like hand tracking with the familiarity of everyday input devices like a keyboard and mouse, we could give people the best of both worlds.”

The company is also developing virtual avatars called Codec Avatars which would “let people in the future create lifelike virtual avatars of themselves quickly and easily, helping social connections in virtual reality become as natural and common as those in the real world.”

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