What do you get when you have a team of 16 people interact with a computer in VR for an entire week using their Oculus Rifts? A whole lot of ideas on the future of work and one excited workforce.
The old adage that a company needs to “dogfood” their own product has been around for ages. It was with this idea that our CEO, Richard Platt, got the team together a few weeks ago and challenged us to spend as much time as possible working inside of VR. The goal was to work ALL WEEK in the vSpatial application eating our own dogfood.
It was a wonderful experiment on so many levels. Most of us spent upwards of 30 hours working in the vSpatial app. On Friday we had a company-wide meeting where we went over all the things that worked well and the things that didn’t work well. Here is a summary of a few things we learned!
Anytime you strap something to your face for hours on end you are going to have to think about comfort. Especially something as immersive as a VR headse to tinteract with a computer in VR.
First, the good. We were able to interact with a computer in VR for an entire week without getting motion sickness. The framerate (which is the primary cause of motion sickness) is great with the Oculus. We are all big VR users so we already had a pretty good idea of what to expect.
That being said, the #1 concern was comfort. Everyone had their own little tricks and ways to make it work. A few folks invested in some VR covers. Those seemed to help. Others fine-tuned the adjustments to the straps on the Oculus headset so that instead of pushing against the face, it really sat on top of your head.
ProTip: Most folks have their headsets strapped tight for gaming and other high movement activities. This is not necessary for productivity in VR. When you are working in VR you just need to have it sit on top of your head and in place. Try tightening the top strap so it rests on top of your head instead of pulling it against your face.
Health and Safety
If you are going to spend a ton of time in VR it is easy to get immersed and forget you have the headset on. This makes it especially strange when you take it off at the end of the day. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you are going to work in VR for an extended period of time.
- It is a good idea to set some alarms to go for a walk in the real world and talk with folks near you a few times a day. It does wonders for your productivity as well.
- vSpatial has a “Privacy Camera” that allows you to see the environment around you. This is fantastic for keeping an eye on your surroundings and for finding things like your keyboard and drink.
- Speaking of nourishment, it’s a good idea to have a drink nearby. A cup with a straw is super helpful. Make sure it has a lid and is always in the same place to help minimize accidental spills.
- Change your environment to keep it real. With screens all around you can forget to stop and smell the roses. Change your background. Go into focus mode in a video conference so you can feel like you are with others and not isolate yourself.
Input Devices To Interact with A Computer in VR
Right now, to interact with a computer in VR you are limited by the input devices that are available for the Oculus. During the week we tried a variety of ways to type and interact with our spaces. We are all computer savvy so we are used to working with a keyboard and a mouse. Transitioning to this new environment meant that we had to rethink how we worked a little bit and find creative ways to type. Here are a few things we tried.
- Virtual Keyboard – vSpatial has a spiffy virtual keyboard. At the time we only supported single controller typing. We corrected that one really quick so now you can type with two hands and that is a significant improvement. It’s like typing on a mobile device with your thumbs. It works well for doing simple things like typing in URL’s or quick replies to messages. It was not great for coding or anything more involved. We found it especially hard to not have keyboard shortcuts.
- Physical Keyboard in Virtual Space – We found that the best thing for most of us was to use the real keyboard. We like the wireless ones that allow you to sit back in your chair, or put it on your lap with your feet on the desk. We’d keep our touch controllers nearby for pointing, but you could do quite a bit with just your keyboard.Keyboard Tip: Did you know that while you are wearing your Oculus headset you look down toward your nose you can see your hands. It’s not noticeable normally, but if you need to find a key quickly to orient yourself it’s a lifesaver.
- Voice Dictation – We tried a number of programs to help with voice dictation. Cortana was okay. The best for us was Dragon Speak where you could dictate entire emails and messages quickly… even faster than we could type them.
In the end we were able to find quite a few good ways to type and get work done. Now and again we all took our headsets off, but for the most part it was not because of a problem with the input devices. We think that the eventual solution to typing in virtual reality is going to be an advance in innovation to all three of these categories.
Overall the experiment was very eye-opening for us. Some are skeptical to interact with a computer in VR for an extended period of time, but that was certainly not the case for us. We learned a lot about our product and got a lot of ideas for the future. We have quite a few things in store and can’t wait to help you be more productive than you’ve ever been before!
Anyone else tried working in vSpatial for an entire day?
Have you ever tried to interact with a computer in VR for an extended period? Any tips to share with us? Tag #vSpatial on facebook with the tag #VRProductivity.