For the past week I’ve been working in the metaverse using my Meta Quest Pro.
Every morning, I put on my VR headset, fire up Horizon Workrooms, and swap my home office for a luxurious cabin overlooking a lake. My home computer’s screen is projected onto a giant floating monitor in front of me, and I’m in a meeting with my boss while watching virtual ocean waves crash against the shores of a beach—an experience that’s far better than staring at a Google Meets screen.
When my lunch break approaches, I can get up from my desk, easily fire up the Walkabout Mini Golf, and play 18 holes like a real businessman.
Before this experiment, I wasn’t sure if I loved or hated the experience of working in VR, but after half a day I had the answer: it absolutely sucks.
VR – The Limits of Reality
Setting up Horizon Workrooms is fairly easy: you just download the VR app on your Quest headset—either my Meta Quest Pro of choice, or the Oculus Quest 2—and install the companion program on your PC . Log into the companion software, and the VR app will be able to connect to your computer, allowing you to see your desktop in VR, with your screen displayed on a large monitor floating in front of you.
This is the first problem I’ve had in VR – the experience is annoyingly limited by real-world hardware. I don’t mean my PC’s CPU and RAM – which would make sense – I mean the number of virtual monitors is capped at the number of real monitors I plug into my PC.
So while Horizon Workrooms can support up to three virtual displays, I can only support up to two because that’s all I have in the real world; given that a VR experience can take me anywhere on Earth, Or take me to imaginary lands, I don’t understand why it can’t summon a third screen.
What makes this especially annoying is that if, like me, you have two screens, Horizon Workrooms will arrange the virtual screens as if you had three instead of reconfiguring your two monitors into a more convenient layout — —Leave an empty space as a constant reminder of its limitations.
Also, while a large monitor provides plenty of screen real estate for all the windows you have open, you might have a hard time seeing what’s on the screen. Due to the screen door effect – which can make a VR screen appear to have large black lines criss-crossing it – I find it hard to tell if I’ve punctuated a sentence or spelled a word correctly; The gap between them is covered.
In addition to making sure you have an adequate monitor, I recommend picking up a VR-compatible keyboard to get the most out of Horizon Workrooms.
Devices like Logitech’s MX Keys keyboard can appear in VR, with the virtual representation perfectly mapped on top of the real device. This makes typing in VR very easy, even if you’re not touching the typewriter, you need to be looking at the keyboard while typing.
If you’re using a Quest Pro, you can peek at the regular mouse and keyboard setup through a deliberate gap below the headset lens, but with a fully enclosed headset, a VR keyboard is a must. Passthrough (which lets you see the real world while wearing headphones) isn’t the best, and figuring out which keys you’re touching can be a bit of a challenge.
It beats Google Meets
One of the things I do appreciate about Workrooms is its ability to take me to new locations, allowing me to work on the beach or at the aforementioned lakeside cabin. I just wish there were more options. In meetings, you have all sorts of spaces, but for your virtual home office, you only have four – lake house, full passthrough (it just shows you a blurry image of your real world office) and light and dark Hollow version. The latter two are surprisingly fun—you sit there, with a table, a lamp, and some houseplants, looking out into a virtual expanse that is mostly empty—but the novelty wears off after about five minutes.
When it comes to VR meetings, they’re one of the best parts of the service. Because the TechRadar team is spread across multiple continents and cities, I spent a fair amount of time on Google Meet calls — the video chat was pretty impersonal. In contrast, a Horizon Workrooms meeting allows you and others to appear as emotional avatars that mimic your facial expressions and hand movements. Thanks to these elements and realistic spatial audio, Workrooms makes it seem like other people are right next to you, not on the other side of the screen. Even meetings with other people on the video screen — like my one-on-one meeting with my boss — felt more alive and engaging than a simple video chat.
But whether it’s in my virtual home office or in a conference room, I can’t escape the instability of Horizon Workroom. Several times a day, for seemingly no reason, it would reboot or crash, forcing me to sit and wait before I could get back to work. I never had to wait too long, but these short breaks added up throughout the session and once again made me feel less productive than I would normally be at my desk.
Not only do I feel more productive if I’m at a desk in the real world, but I’m also more comfortable. While the Meta Quest Pro is more comfortable than many other headsets on the market, its 722g weight becomes very noticeable after you’ve worn it for hours.At the end of the day, rather than jumping into a more relaxing VR experience, I crave
nightmare i might return to
Horizon Workrooms isn’t the best app on the Quest platform, but it’s far from the worst — its shortcomings may be tolerable for some. After all, the software is clearly marked as a beta program that is still in development, so bugs and glitches may appear.
However, Meta is making and selling a $1,500/£1,500/AU$2,450 headset designed to prove to businesses that they can work and be more productive in VR, and in my experience, Meta designed the Workrooms app to not really work. Achieving this—sure, you can get work done, but in many ways you’re better off just using your computer and not wearing headphones.
Despite its flaws, I can actually see myself working in VR in the future, although I might want something similar to Apple’s VR headset. The ultra-high-end device is rumored to feature an M2 chip — the same chip used in the best Macbooks and Macs — allowing it to function like a laptop; the laptop you wear). If it arrives, it will likely be designed from the ground up as a standalone productivity device, rather than a bulky add-on limited by the accompanying PC.
If the workplace of the future is truly virtual, we’re going to need new hardware and better software — because right now, working in VR just doesn’t work.