OPINION

The Irony of Facebook’s VR Collaboration Debacle

virtual reality business collaboration

Facebook is misclassified as a social media company. If it wasn’t, bringing out a VR product like Horizon Workrooms, reviews of which have not been kind, would have been better received.

Collaboration is a social process where people get together to collectively solve problems. But Facebook sucks at social. A more accurate descriptor is that Facebook is a gossip platform at scale, which has done considerable harm to several countries and put them at considerable existential risk. Add to that, both political parties in the U.S. agree on very little — but taking down Facebook seems to be the exception.

To fix the problem Facebook is trying to solve requires — and this is where the irony comes in — a social network, which Facebook’s collaboration failure showcases it is not.

Let’s talk about that. Then we’ll close with my product of the week, the upcoming Cadillac Lyriq, which may be the electric car to beat next year.

The VR Collaboration Problem

There is a widely held opinion that the problem with virtual meetings is that they don’t take place in virtual conference rooms. That opinion, if you’ve ever collaborated, is mainly false.

I’ve covered video conferencing and collaboration for several decades now, and if you watch people collaborate, they rarely do it in conference rooms.

Conference rooms are used for information sharing, but this tends to be either a talk by one speaker to an audience or a sequential set of presentations shared with the group. Neither is collaboration; they’re just a form of information sharing.

Collaboration is a social construct where people work in concert with each other to accomplish a common goal. It takes place wherever those people are situated. Some of the best collaboration efforts I’ve seen are where people go off to remote sites away from distractions and work together in an office structure with an exclusive focus on that project.

The issue with video conferencing versus in-person meetings, that decade after decade providers have chosen to ignore, is that people want the social aspect of an in-person meeting.

To collaborate, and frankly advance in a company successfully, you must create relationships. You know, do what Facebook was originally designed to do.

It isn’t the conference rooms that are missed — most of us hate those rooms and view the related meetings as vast wastes of time. What we’re missing today are the lunches, dinners, cocktail parties, and corner conversations that form friendships you don’t make if you don’t meet in person.

This problem isn’t something that VR is set up yet to fix unless it becomes more realistic.

Folks aren’t going to make friends with other employees that look like cartoons. When creating a relationship, it helps to look into the eyes of the person you are working with, which is precisely what VR headsets don’t currently allow.

VR, in this instance, is like trying to fix a hole in your boat with a drill. In its current form, it is almost the exact opposite of what you need if you want people to collaborate remotely and effectively.

Ironically, Facebook’s Portal solution is arguably better because it helps people see each other when they talk. It is optimized for one-on-one interaction, which is generally missing in a video conferencing event.

Portal also promotes interactions (granted, somewhat ineffectively) like watching movies together. These interactions help to create the social bonds which are critical to good collaboration and encourage people to work together and mesh as a team.

Business Needs a True Social Platform

Video conferencing products are successful because we are in a pandemic and people have to use them for meetings.

Though for true collaboration other tools are generally used; like Github, Yammer, SharePoint, and Office 365 Groups; all of which are now under the umbrella of Microsoft which seems to bracket collaboration. Meanwhile, Microsoft positions Teams as one of its collaboration offerings, that solution integrates with the others and, like its peers, is best for information sharing as opposed to collaboration.

What the market needs are relationship-building programs. Granted, mainly MMO’s could be part of this solution because I’ve seen relationships form and advance between video gamers who play as teams.

Anecdotally, right now during the pandemic, video games played by working teams seem to be an impressive team- and relationship-building tool. These games help people let their hair down, get to know each other, and help fill the gap that not meeting people in person has left open.

Wrapping Up

Facebook needs to get social right, and we need a social relationship solution for business. If Facebook transitioned back to making and advancing relationships, I think it would be more liked and far less of a problem that needs to be fixed.

If we want to move ahead and stay with remote work, we need to solve the relationship problem. People need to feel that they can make and advance relationships remotely as effectively as they can in person.

Otherwise, assuming we put this pandemic thing behind us (which is seeming less likely all the time), we’ll have to go back to the in-person meeting for those that want to collaborate successfully and more rapidly advance their careers.

I’m still struck by the fact that a social media company missed so entirely with its collaboration offering by simply not understanding that it needs to be social, not what it is, which is a bad joke. I mean, watch this demo:

Facebook’s Horizon Workrooms is not collaboration. Microsoft Teams would be a better solution for information sharing because you’d see Zuckerberg, not an avatar that looks nothing like him.

Rob Enderle's Technology Product of the Week

The Cadillac Lyriq

More information about the Cadillac Lyriq will show up in the first quarter of next year (granted, barring chip shortage issues that are crippling auto sales).

Lyriq continues to hit on most of the critical areas needed in an electric car, including the essential 300-mile range that currently sets the minimum bar for an EV as a primary rather than a secondary car.

It comes fully loaded (except for a $1,500 22-inch wheel option that you don’t need) at a cost of just under $60K before rebates but after destination charges.

The Cadillac Lyriq is a GM technology showcase, aggressively using a whopping 736 LED’s all over the vehicle to give it a personality and make the car look fantastic.

The massive 33-inch interior display is unmatched in the market, and the interior luxury easily eclipses the Tesla X that starts at $20K more expensive.

When it hits the market, nothing will come to close the Lyriq in range or luxury level at its price point, and I love a value. My Jaguar iPace comes off lease next year and I’m seriously considering the Lyriq despite its larger size.

It’s been decades since I’ve even considered a U.S.-built car, let alone one from GM. Though I will likely wait until the more expensive and powerful version of this car comes out later next year.

The initial 340 horsepower is less than my Jaguar, and it won’t have an all-wheel drive which is critical to have anywhere it snows.

To bring the car to market quickly, GM used a new virtual development process which is also speeding to market the GMC Hummer EV.

Sadly, one of the best features, “plug and charge,” won’t initially make it in the car. This feature didn’t require a charging app but would let you plug into a supporting charger without the app hassle, more like a Tesla. Given that I think the issue is with the charging companies and not GM. I think this will likely be added with a software update, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Because the Cadillac Lyriq, despite its size, is on my shortlist to replace my Jaguar iPace, and it will arrive as a 2023 model in early 2022 (giving you nearly two years with a current-year car), and it is a considerable bargain, it is my product of the week. Excellent job, Cadillac!

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, a consultancy that serves the technology industry. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester. Email Rob.

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