One thing that never crossed my mind when I got the Quest 2 used it for work.
When I first picked up my helmet, I thought I would immerse myself in Google Earth, some indoor fitness, maybe some targeted meditation for stress. I had already played with virtual reality, including for a story to CTRL-V in Bear, Delaware, and it seemed like a fun gadget to have for a serious getaway.
And I had heard about the metaverse — mainly VRChata social program filled with carefully designed personalized avatars, which went viral in 2021 after a user named Coopertom recreated Total four season landscaping after the infamous Giuliani press conference shortly after the 2020 elections.
But could I use this technology to write an article in a relaxing VR workspace with mountain views? I set out to find it.
VR beyond leisure
It’s hard to explain the Metaverse, but in its simplest terms, it’s the internet, but totally immersive. When you log into a Quest VR headset, on the main screen of your selected immersive home environment, you’ll find a schedule of upcoming live events – for example, 6 a.m. workouts, panels discussions, film screenings, concerts. Some are free, others are paid. While cryptocurrency is considered inseparable from the metaverse, for now, non-crypto currency is accepted into the metaverse through Google Pay.
Entering a shared VR space for the first time is surreal. Avatars mingle, while the sound of multiple conversations and languages surrounds you. On my first foray into the social VR app Horizon Worlds, a solo avatar hovered next to me for a moment and waved at me. I waved, my digital hand in my peripheral view. They flew away. A real person.
(If my momentary acquaintance had instead behaved inappropriately, I could have put what is essentially a force field around me, making me invisible to others. I could then leave or move to another location, or , if the user was particularly bad, report it.)
If you don’t like talking to strangers, you can meet friends on the platform. You can watch movies with friends who live thousands of miles away, like sitting together in a living room movie theater. It’s wild.
I would soon find that the Quest 2 is also great for things like online research and watching news boards and discussions on the Youtube application. Attention and concentration are heightened and distractions are filtered out. I could essentially spend my workday at home surrounded by multiple screens, meeting portals, and an all-important working VR keyboard, but in any virtual setting of my choosing.
I tried two apps: Immersed and vSpatial. Both connect to your PC or Mac, allowing you to work on your computer in the VR space. Both have a learning curve, especially when it comes to typing (at least for a non-gamer like me). Both offer aesthetically pleasing and distraction-free workspaces.
Of the two apps I tried, vSpatial was the more intuitive, requiring fewer tutorials. It connects to your computer via Bluetooth and the device connection happens automatically when you open the app as long as your computer is on and nearby.
If you know how to use Quest controllers to pick up objects and move them around, you can quickly start setting up your workspace carousel with screens, both from your computer and its internal features, including a browser and game. of arcade.
The keyboard has three options, including a “passthrough” feature where you can (sort of) see your actual keyboard through the camera on the front of your headset, as well as a passthrough feature that connects your keyboard to virtual keyboard computer and an internal point-and-click keyboard. This is where the learning curve is the steepest for me. I still use point-and-click on this app, because Relay is too distracting to be worth working in a VR workspace in the first place, and I’ve had issues connecting to the tracked keyboard.
Overall, vSpatial offers a relaxing atmosphere – a mountain view that can be turned off so you only work with your work screens in view – and is fairly easy to maneuver.
Check out my overview of vSpatial:
When you first open the Immersed app, you’re greeted by an avatar guide that walks you through connecting your computer and gives you a quick tutorial on using the controllers – or your hands as controllers , which you will need to do to use the typewriter connected to your computer.
The tutorial didn’t answer my big question: how do I use my hands to type? After some trial and error, I managed to sync my laptop keyboard with the app keyboard and was able to type random letters with my fingers. I figured out that I need to disable the feature that makes your hands active controllers in order to hit the right keys (sometimes). The learning curve here is steep; I say this as someone who has no problem writing essays or entire articles quickly on my phone. This is something I’m sure I understand, but I’m not quite there yet.
Immersed offers a variety of settings for your workspace, from a lakeside pavilion to places that look like something out of a video game to a standard-looking conference room.
Immersed isn’t as intuitive as vSpatial, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy enough to use for search, email, Slack, and other smaller tasks. Eventually I can see that I can do everything including write articles in the workspace.
Here is my immersive preview:
So what’s the verdict?
In the end, no, I didn’t write this whole article in VR.
Will I continue to use virtual reality for work? I will definitely be using it to look at things like virtual panels. I will definitely use the VR Browser at least some of the time for work, simply because the headset is a good way to focus when you find yourself distracted at your desk.
However, I don’t necessarily need a VR workspace to do these things. YouTube is probably the best VR platform for video, including viewing non-VR videos – non-360/180VR video feels like watching a movie in a theater.
Quest’s built-in browser works well enough for searching and sharing. But where a VR workspace shines is in its ability to keep you in the loop of your workday. Slack is there, your email is there, just like on your laptop. Everything is just like your laptop, because it literally is, and that makes for a more connected workspace, even if your colleagues aren’t using VR.
It will take a few years (maybe more, maybe less) before the virtual workspace is fully usable for the average remote worker, and the success of VR workspaces will depend on whether they become the norm, as Zoom or the metaverse itself. Soft. It won’t happen tomorrow, but it could happen.