With millions of people temporarily working from home at the moment, Facebook has shown off what it believes could be the future of the home office.
Using augmented reality technology, a brief demonstration published on Twitter this week demonstrates how multiple virtual computer displays could be arranged in a compact home working space.
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Instead of struggling with a small laptop display, or filling the kitchen table with a couple of bulky monitors liberated from the office before coronavirus lockdown, augmented reality allows for a pair of displays to float in thin air.
The footage was posted to Twitter by Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's head of augmented and virtual reality. Using so-called Passthrough technology, the workers can see their real-life environment, including their desk, keyboard and mouse, but also see virtual computer displays.
These can be manipulated with hand gestures, moving them around and making them larger or smaller. Although just eight second long, the demonstration gives a good look at what a virtual, AR-powered home office could look like.
Bosworth said: "As we think through supercharging remote work and productivity, we've been working on mixed reality concepts that builds [sic] on existing technologies like Passthrough to allow people to switch between real and virtual worlds."
He said in a followup tweet: "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." Bosworth also confirmed the footage was created using the Oculus Rift VR headset, which is produced by Facebook.
Facebook explained the concept further in a blog post. "We envision a dynamic virtual work environment anchored by genuine social presence. Next-generation devices would give people infinite workspaces with configurable virtual screens, whiteboards, and other visionary tools. You could work alone or collaborate in a persistent meeting room with remote coworkers like you were all sharing the same physical space, and with all the nuance of in-person conversation."
This demonstration combines virtual reality and augmented reality, in what's known as mixed reality. That way, the outward-facing cameras of the Rift give you a view of your keyboard and mouse (and your general surroundings), alongside the virtual computer displays.
Facebook describes creating virtual workplaces as "one of our greatest goals," adding: "We have taken significant steps toward this goal with new experiences built on today's technologies." Facebook sees a future "in which traveling for work is optional and a person's career is dictated by his or her choices – not geography."
Oculus Rift S PC-Powered VR Gaming Headset