Throughout the pandemic, Zoom turned into a verbal shortcut for referencing remote work, helped in part by its easy-to-use software and features tailor-made for meetings. Now that tech companies are clamoring to define and dominate the metaverse, a hybrid of the virtual and physical worlds, Zoom figured it might as well develop tools for getting work done there — wherever “there” is — too.
As part of its Zoomtopia 2021 conference, Zoom announced its first move into virtual reality. Zoom’s Whiteboard gives workers the ability to collaborate more effectively online, and the company plans to split it off into its own standalone service. As a result of this, it’ll become available in Facebook’s Oculus Horizons Workrooms. You, your co-workers, and your computer-generated avatars will eventually interact with one another in a stark white virtual conference room. Instead of a mouse cursor, you’ll use your hands to pan around the whiteboard, according to the preview images. Sounds… great.
Zoom published a massive blog post on all the new features coming to the video-conferencing service, but perhaps the most interesting — and most relevant to virtual reality — is an improved live transcription feature.
The company is aiming automatic live transcription support for 30 languages by the end of 2022. The transcription engine will also include translation for 12 languages for paid accounts by the end of next year, though there are no specifics on which would be first. Zoom mentioned that it’s employing the machine learning smarts of the German translation company Kites, which it acquired back in June. Kites, or Karlsruhe Information Technology Solutions, originally developed the technology to act as an in-classroom translator for German and English students.
Facebook is already trying to convince us that life in the metaverse is our future, and Zoom’s latest announcements play into this vision. Imagine rolling late out of bed because you slept through your alarm, then putting on a virtual reality headset to join your weekly standup. At the very least, you can rely on your well-coiffed avatar to represent you, when in real life things are a little less put together.
It begs the question of whether putting on a VR headset will ever stop feeling goofy. With more technology companies throwing pushing back reopening their physical offices, that virtual reality conference room with editable Zoom whiteboards seems like our actual future with every new covid case.