In light of the global pandemic, Facebook announced last week it was making way for more productivity and collaboration apps on the Oculus Store to help bridge businesses together in a time of social distancing. Now, Facebook has shown off a concept interface that gives us a peek into what the company calls “the future of augmented workspace.”

Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth, Facebook’s VP of AR/VR, showed off the concept yesterday which he says uses a prototype VR headset. In the short clip seen below, we see a person using the headset’s optical hand tracking to manipulate and place multiple virtual monitors—a feature basically available on Oculus Quest today—and use a physical keyboard, all of which is set to the backdrop of a photogrammetry scene.

The concept, Bosworth says, is building on the passthrough function on Quest, which lets you keep an eye on your physical surroundings when you first set up the headset’s Guardian safety system, and use passthrough’s monochrome view of the world in place of a virtual Home.

At its core, Facebook says the future of immersive headsets as a productivity device will need to offer “a flexible and infinite workspace” which will let people create a working environment from anywhere in the world. It would, according to Facebook’s AR/VR team, need to allow users to switch between real and virtual worlds at any time, just like we see in the video.

As far as consumers are concerned, no such headset exists today in terms of display pixel density to replace a monitor and ability to seamlessly handle both augmented reality tasks such as looking at your physical hands and keyboard, and virtual reality tasks, like replacing your entire background with an ideal, distraction-free setting. You’d be mistaken in believing its far off though.

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Companies like the Finnish headset manufacturer Varjo have been pushing in that direction in the enterprise space for years now; the company already offers its $10,000 XR-1 Developer Edition headset which achieves a high pixel density nearly capable of replacing a standard monitor by way of blending a central 1,920 x 1,080 micro-OLED ‘focus display’ (60 PPD) with a larger ‘context’ display at 1,440 x 1,600, which has a lower PPD but provides the headset with an 87-degree field of view. It also does mixed reality.

Of course, it doesn’t just come down to pixel density, better passthrough, and great hand tracking. Keeping users working in a headset requires not only advances in ergonomics, but also advances in the headset’s ability to allow dynamic depth of field for long-term visual comfort, something Facebook is working on in their varifocal Half Dome prototype.

And although Bosworth’s video is only a small slice of Facebook’s vision of the future of work, the company also says that such a system would undoubtedly benefit from “seamless desktop integration and networked social features,” so you could work in a virtual office with easy access to colleagues from the comfort of your own wherever.

There will no doubt come a day when such an AR/VR work device provides so many material benefits over a single-screen laptop that you may only need a headset and physical keyboard to get everything done (and faster). But even then, a physical keyboard may be an anachronism in a world where the 2D Web bends to the will of the overwhelming numbers of AR/VR users, and the future of work inevitably shifts to take the fullest advantage of these new three-dimensional paradigms.

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  • Greyl

    With a keyboard, mouse and an Oculus Quest, you essentially have a mobile work station.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    I still like typing on an actual real keyboard way much better than any virtual keyboard or even those flat keyboard with hardly any real keys (like the keyboard that came with the older MacMini). Also can only type decently now on ‘natural’ keyboards as the straight keyboards give me pain in my wrists/arms after a few minutes of typing.

    • Djehuti Hotep

      The article said that the future is to use a physical keyboard and that everything else from the computer to monitor will be virtual.

    • Jetson

      There we go again, I bed you drive a horse carriage and heating your home with an open fire place. I’m surprised your message pigeon made it to this forum ;)

      • Andrew Jakobs

        What has that got to do with actual ergonomically keyboards? Real haptic feedback is also a reason why people like stuff, not everything has to be virtual.

    • Sven Viking

      I think the video is showing a virtual overlay on a real keyboard.

  • Sofian

    Must be for their next HMD, resolution is way too low with current hardware.

  • Headsets with passthrough MR are coming. Think about the Lynx R-1 or the Cosmos XR. I love passthrough MR, it has so much potential. I also made this video with an ecommerce prototype using the Cosmos XR, if you’re curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aQXdWBDbV0 . The possibilities are endless.

    It’s also interesting to see that Facebook is actively working on a MR operating system….

    • Alexander Grobe

      Fully agree about the MR potential. Did work with ZED mini + Leap Motion on Rift which was a nice combination. I’m wondering how the Comos XR works with the passthrough cameras placed below your eyes. Does it correct this somehow and what is the latency?

  • my name is Larry Singul and I opened the world’s first virtual reality store in 2013
    Do you like virtual reality like I do?
    Join our Facebook group What are you waiting for?
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    we are the first vrar store since 2013
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  • Andrew

    It looks to me like Scott maybe behind the times in one or two aspects of this. The only part I would agree with is good VR pass thru for MR is still not mainstream. For the actual desktop workspace both WMR and some of the numerous Steam Virtual Desktop apps are working well for me personally and I can embed them into other programs. WMR only supports one embedded window at a time for some reason but Steam apps can do many.

    Also I’m using an HP Reverb G1 ( the fixed version not the original duff one ) and with it’s twin 4k displays, it works really well for me for virtual desktop apps so I don’t agree with the assertion that there are ‘no’ headsets out there close to monitor quality but… that’s just my own personal experience. Maybe Scott tried the G1 and found it not good enough.