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Mark Zuckerberg has a $10 billion plan to make it impossible for remote workers to hide from their bosses

At least digital humanoids don’t get Zoom fatigue—yet.

During the Meta Connect 2022 live keynote last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed his new plans for Meta to bring avatars—uncanny digital stand-ins for human workers—to video chats.

They would be customized to match a person’s exact skin tone, hairstyle, and outfit choices. According to Zuckerberg, an entirely virtual roundtable meeting would consist of you and your coworkers’ avatars chatting in something like a “third mode” between fully camera-on and camera-off.

“You can still express yourself and react, but you’re not on-camera, so it’s kind of like a better camera-off mode,” he said.

The social media giant invested $10 billion in building the metaverse last year, a digital space where users can interact with experiences and other people using VR technology. Zuckerberg revealed the video chat avatar feature in the keynote after announcing partnerships with several companies, including one with Microsoft chairman and CEO Satya Nadella that would bring Microsoft apps to Meta Horizon Workrooms—the VR metaverse rooms where workers’ avatars meet—to create “a unified, digital office we think can make distributed work so much better.”

As Intelligencer John Herrman points out, all of this could be a strategy to diversify Meta’s business—but it could also be a play at acknowledging execs’ challenges with remote work and trying to rectify them. The opportunity for a “better camera-off mode” just might be an answered prayer for the bosses unhappy with the remote workers who tend to join meetings with their web cameras off.

Is seeing still believing?

Proximity bias, which describes bosses tending to prefer workers they can see in person, has long been proven. It also may explain why managers who are used to commandeering a physical office would be thrilled if they could see their workers—even if that required them to wear an elaborate headset that costs as much as a Peloton.

A 20,000-person survey by Microsoft itself found that bosses are still regularly questioning their remote employees’ productivity levels. Some have even taken draconian measures to ensure that their ideal level of productivity is met. Per August research from the New York Times, eight out of the 10 largest private employers in the U.S. track productivity metrics, including active online time, the incidence of keyboard pauses, how long it takes to write an email, and even individual keystrokes.

Zuckerberg’s enthusiasm about metaverse meetings, and the support from a tech sector heavyweight like Nadella, may speak to exactly this kind of “productivity paranoia.”

But some experts are wary of a full-scale pivot to the metaverse. “We would have to carefully attend to the physical implications of headsets,” Roshni Raveendhran, assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, told Fortune last year. “Like if it harms our eyesight or implicates our brain functions; we don’t know any of these things now, and we won’t know until there’s more of a continual usage pattern. We need to pay attention to some of those before we go into full-scale adoption.”

The metaverse is unlikely to be as all-encompassing as Zuckerberg hopes, says Cathy Hackl, a futurist and metaverse expert. For instance, meetings that hinge on deeper bonding or team building, such as new hire orientations or holiday parties, are still best done in person. “Your company can’t treat you to a cocktail virtually,” she told Fortune.

And with even the most advanced VR devices, Hackl added, she hits her limit around the 45-minute mark. “I don’t think I could wear a headset for a six-hour video call.”

This story was originally featured on

Source: Yahoo 

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