Meta and Microsoft form an unlikely partnership on workplace VR

They’re hoping that Microsoft software on a new Meta headset will make the metaverse a popular platform for work.
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· 4 min read

Meta may soon play a larger role in your workplace than you ever expected. In an unlikely alliance, the social media giant has partnered with Microsoft to integrate tools including Teams, Windows, and Office to a premier version of the headset formerly known as Oculus: Quest Pro.

“With Windows 365 coming to Quest, you’ll have a new way to securely stream the entire Windows experience, including all the personalized apps, content, and settings to your VR device,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said at an October 11 launch event. In other words: Employees will be able to work on multiple projects and interact with distributed colleagues unlike ever before.

Friend, not foe. Microsoft and Meta were competitors until last year, but the former’s AR HoloLens headset has been all but phased out. This is the first time the companies have partnered in over a decade, according to The Verge, seemingly in the interest of driving workplace adoption of VR and AR. While Microsoft has been omnipresent in the working world for decades, Facebook is a relative newcomer, having entered the space in 2016.

“Microsoft is among the biggest players in all of work technology. To see their commitment to investing more in XR [extended reality] is great for the medium, and should help further build and accelerate the foundation for the further adoption of enterprise VR,” Jeremy Bailenson, co-founder of VR training company Strivr and founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, told HR Brew via email.

Slow and steady. Corporate adoption of VR solutions has been gradual, even amid the proliferation of remote and hybrid work that has left many leaders concerned about collaboration and innovation. Lack of user familiarity with the technology and insufficient software have both been barriers, and Meta has faced its own challenges getting the metaverse off the ground. But J.P. Gownder, a Forrester analyst, wrote to HR Brew via email that the integration with Microsoft software that employees are likely already very familiar with may encourage use.

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“Enterprise metaverse solutions are merging with core collaboration suites,” he said, echoing a prediction his company made earlier this year. “Enterprise metaverse offers tangible opportunities for helping connect work teams who are more distributed than ever before.”

Another issue that has prevented widespread adoption of VR in the workplace: Employees don’t want to wear headsets for long periods of time due to their bulkiness and the strain they put on the eyes. The new Quest Pro aims to address that, Gowdnder said.

“The Meta–Microsoft integration depends on the release of the new Meta Quest Pro device, which offers higher resolution displays and allows users to comfortably read text. The multi-monitor scenario offers an opportunity to create endless multi-monitor setups in virtual reality,” he explained, adding, however, “that functionality can’t be used for hours on end” because people would still prefer to edit powerpoints in real life rather than in the metaverse.

The use cases. Ultimately, Gownder sees many opportunities for VR to improve HR processes, including virtual “onboarding, training, and collaboration,” and business leaders seem to agree. Many employers in the airline, healthcare, and manufacturing industries, where workers often operate in high-risk situations, are using the technology for training. Accenture, meanwhile, has invested in the metaverse as an onboarding tool.

“The Teams functionality extends a core value proposition of employee metaverse scenarios: Collaborative real-time interactions in 3D,” Gownder said. “Mixed reality experiences that traverse the real world and the digital world might help bridge some of the experience challenges created by anywhere- and hybrid- work.”—AK

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