In the tech industry, “dogfooding” is a common term that describes when companies make their employees use the software and hardware they make, so that bugs can be caught and everyday improvements can be dreamed up before the product ever hits the market.
Recently, the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley have shown significant interest in augmented reality, a technology that integrates computer graphics and software into the real world. Eventually, supporters say, when “AR” technology becomes advanced enough, a pair of smartglasses may be able to replace every screen you typically use, from your smartphone to your work computer.
But to get to that point, technologists are going to have to eat a lot of dogfood – they’re going to have to actually replace their beloved computers and smartphones with AR headsets.
One Silicon Valley company is actually doing this right now. Meta is a startup making an AR headset, and it’s asking its employees to put away their desktop computers and instead do their daily work inside the Meta 2 headset.
Although Meta’s engineers rebelled at first, according to Bloomberg , the company’s marketing, sales, and operations departments have provided a lot of useful feedback because of the experiment.
“I have not used any computing device except for my iPhone and Meta 2 for three weeks now,” Meta VP Ryan Pamplin, the startup’s evangelist, told Business Insider last month. “This is the end of my third week of being computer free.”
“I also stream my Mac desktop in a virtual window that’s floating in front of me, which is nice, because then I can use iMovie or Photoshop or any of the Mac apps I like,” he continued. Pamplin said he likes to watch movies on the Meta 2 on flights.
Meta has raised over $73 million in venture funding from investors including Horizon Ventures, Lenovo, Tencent, and Banyan Capital. It’s reportedly valued at over $300 million.
Meta’s desktop-discarding experiment is possible because Meta has developed a piece of software for its headset it calls Workspace.In Workspace, users can pop up several browser windows inside the headset – perhaps one to play a YouTube video and another to work on a document. Software exists to create and place virtual sticky notes, photos of your family, or even digital houseplants around your desk. Basically, you can create your own virtual dream office.
“In order to get good you have to dogfood,” Pamplin said. “Ok, well, if you have to dogfood to be good, why is Meta the only ones doing it? And I think the answer is, we’re the only ones that can.”
I got to try a demo of Workspace last month in San Francisco in a bright, sun-filled room. Here’s what it was like: