A VR office is an artificial environment that offers all the features of a regular office within a virtual 3D space. Due to huge advancements in VR technology today, such a feature is usually no longer considered as impossible or even incredible. In fact, we do already have several iterations of the concept, with varying degrees of complexity.
The first criticism though that naturally comes to mind with such an idea is the apparent waste of effort and resources. Why use extra hardware and software just to create an environment you most likely are already sitting on right now?
However, there are those who believe that VR desktops are a feasible concept. The idea is that something like a real version Job Simulator could provide you with additional features that a regular workstation wouldn’t otherwise.
The ‘real’ job simulators
If we are to define a VR office as instead any virtual environment where anyone could use their professional skills, there is no argument. The concept is basically the next evolutionary step.
One very good example is any field of engineering, where creation meets visualization. A projection of a schematic on a flat 2D medium such as a screen might be sufficient. But with VR, your degrees of freedom are basically multiplied. Think of Iron Man. Visualize floating designs of buildings, machines, and works of art. Instead of being superimposed like augmented reality, they are simply within the surroundings custom tailored to the user’s VR preferences.
Another example is medical practice. Traditionally, apprenticeship from other surgeons is required to build up experience. A VR space optimized for medical procedures could forgo this institutional task, by providing you with an advanced surgical training course. Imagine the entire database of previous medical cases around the world. This breadth of knowledge becomes easily accessible, and can be simulated and practiced properly on your own personal VR emergency room.
Such applications showcase some of the best things VR can offer right now for productivity. It is essentially the ‘real’ job simulator, which is an enhancement, rather than just a reproduction of the professional work space.
Think space, not desk
“But this has nothing to do with my nine-to-five desk.” You might claim. Actually, there is a connection. Using VR means using space you don’t normally have physically. Therefore, the best use of a VR office is to provide more spaces for more information outlets, or what we typically refer to as screens. Take a look at some of these apps:
SPACE, an app developed by Pygmal Technologies, gives us a glimpse into the potential of this idea. Basically, you are given an open VR office that will generate a maximum of six screens and windows that can be oriented and used accordingly.
BigScreen is a VR telepresence platform that was originally designed for standard communication and interaction. Various work-related features were then added as part of its development line, which now includes three additional virtual monitors for more virtual multimedia outlets.
Windows Mixed Reality is the touted all-purpose VR platform of Microsoft that features many different VR compatible integrated Windows 10 apps. As such, it functions pretty much like a VR operating system.
The obvious flaw of course is that your hand isn’t virtually represented with an available keyboard. Either you’ll have to go into complete touch-type mode, or use something like this. There are keyboard functions for these apps, but don’t expect your usual typing cadence if you’re holding a clunky VR controller for its input.
Not worthwhile yet, but worth the wait
Investment plays a key role in any hardware you use for productivity. Same goes with VR, and unfortunately this is where everything falls apart. Typical VR setups that can maximize professional work require a higher end PC, which often costs a few thousand dollars for all the needed components. This is to ensure that the VR environment is rendered properly, and the needed frames per second (90 minimum) are met.
Even with a top of the line PC, inherent limitations such as screen resolution would simply make the experience not as satisfactory. You can’t exactly type on your virtual word processor if the letters becomes grainy or pixelated. A few heavy users might even feel that the number of screens is inadequate, if the information needed to be scanned at one time is not sufficient.
Also, as mentioned earlier, typical input methods are not exactly welcome in VR. The current trend in its development is the use of intuitive controllers that will interact with the artificial environment. Not exactly the right kind of tool if you want to edit visual media on your beach-themed VR office.
That being said, things are expected to become better with time. As the VR market expands, adoption will become higher, competition will rise, which would subsequently standardize costs. Just as with smartphones and tablets before, we might get to a point that every single office, home, or even workstation, has a VR unit to access our virtual productivity suites with.
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