Is Facebook’s metaverse dream a boardroom? It looks more like a nightmare

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On Thursday morning, Facebook rolled out the first real-world piece of Mark Zuckerberg’s dream of turning the company into a pillar of the metaverse. Known as Horizon Workrooms, it is an interactive virtual reality tool for meetings. Basically, this means that you can now attend a meeting using an Oculus Quest 2 VR headset and appear in a shared space as an avatar character, with all of your coworkers.

Of course, before we get too far, it helps to talk briefly about the Metaverse. In an interview with Gayle King on CBS, Zuckerberg described it this way:

So I think of the metaverse as the next generation of the internet, so you can kind of think of it as, instead of being an internet that we look at, it’s an internet that we are a part of or that we can be in. inside .

As Zuckerberg defines it, the metaverse is a way to connect with other people and experiences in digital spaces. It could be for work, for playing, for watching a movie or for going to school.

For example, instead of attending a business meeting via Zoom, you attend virtual reality and can interact in a shared space. You can see the people around you, and you can hear them relative to where they are in the “room”. You can even bring your laptop into the virtual meeting room to take notes or view information.

It seems like a really good thing in a world where businesses are trying to find a way to get people back to the office, and a lot of those people are trying to decide if they ever want to go back there. If all of your meetings are in a virtual space, it doesn’t matter where you are physically. That’s why – to anyone who thinks technology has a solution for every problem – it probably sounds pretty cool. To me it looks terrible.

I must point out at the outset that I have not yet personally experienced Horizon Workrooms (or is it virtually?). My thoughts are less on the experience – which many have called “amazing”. My thoughts are on the idea.

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What Zuckerberg has deployed looks good for playing video games or other forms of entertainment. Going to a virtual reality concert with all your friends would definitely be new. But the work is different.

In all of the reporting I have done on remote working, I have never heard anyone say that what they want is for someone to invent a technology to make it easier for managers to force the worst part of working in an office about people working remotely.

First, let’s say there are two types of people: those who like meetings and those who don’t. I tend to believe that there are a lot more of these, and most of the first group are managers. That alone explains most of the problems people have with meetings.

One of the largely unspoken reasons why so many people prefer to continue working remotely is that it creates a barrier between them and their work. In many cases, that means fewer meetings – or at least fewer meetings that take place just because everyone is present and it’s convenient for the manager to call a meeting instead of sending an e- mail.

During King’s interview with Zuckerberg, she remarked that she was “Zoomed in,” a reference to the fact that we all spent a lot of time on Zoom video calls doing the things we were doing face to face. . That’s right, a lot of us are exhausted from Zoom meetings, but I don’t know anyone who thinks the solution is to create a more immersive form of video calling.

The main argument for Facebook’s virtual boardroom seems to be that it will make teams more productive. But there’s a real mismatch between what a manager thinks productivity looks like and what the people who are trying to get the job think.

The main reason that meetings are so frustrating is that they get in the way of getting the job you are supposed to do. Most people don’t want more ways of talking about work – especially when it comes to putting on a VR headset – they want more time to do their jobs without a constant stream of interruptions.

Having said that, I have to admit that for Facebook it’s pretty awesome. It’s much easier to convince a finite number of managers to spend money on Oculus Quest 2 headsets and impose the inconvenience of virtual meetings on their team than to get everyone to buy a headset and dive in. in the metaverse.

If Facebook is to make the metaverse a thing, it makes sense that it starts with meetings. I can’t help but think that Zuckerberg’s dream is, once again, about to turn into a nightmare for the rest of us.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of Inc.com are theirs and not those of Inc.com.


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