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Productivity can mean a lot of things depending on the role or function you are measuring. It means one thing for the factory worker, another for the student and another for the programmer. In our case, we will be looking from the perspective of the digital worker, or someone using digital tools, sitting at a Desktop or Laptop, working with software to accomplish a task or communication. In general, we can define Productivity as the effectiveness of effort, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input. In relation to working in VR, can I get a better output per hour spent in an HMD then an hour sitting at my desktop?

Productivity is also often accompanied by Quality as a measure of value of the output. You can manufacture lots of widgets but if many of the widgets have defects then the productivity was in vain. So our formula may look like (output x time x correct%). 10 typed pages x 2 hours x 95% correct words = 19 pages worth of production and 1 page worth of re-typing.

Then lets add one more variable to the equation, Efficiency. Efficiency measures the effort required to generate the given output. One example of efficiency we all readily recognize is Miles Per Gallon (MPG). Two cars can travel the same distance over the same time (production). But one can do it at 20 MPG where the other does it at 15 MPG. For our purposes we might consider, words per minute, or lines of code per hour as measures of Efficiency.

So the question for doing our work in an HMD using a VR application is can we Produce as much (or more) at the same level of Quality (or better) at the same (or better) Efficiency.

1. Immersed

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BigScreen is like having a LAN party in VR. It’s a polished app with nice environments, a good cartoon-style avatar system, and a clear and simple user interface. You can’t move freely in the environments, but only teleport between preset vantage points. The reason for this is that the central point of focus in each room is a big screen – hence the name.

Participants can install the app on their Windows PC to be able to stream their computer screen into the app. When you do that, you get a private view of your screen right in front of your per default. You can also mirror the content on the big center screen, making it easy to do presentations from PowerPoint, pdf’s, video content or any “flat” content. If many users are running the PC streaming application, they can take turns in projecting their screens to the big screen.

BigScreen is focused on social movie-watching and gaming, and you can always check into the app to jump into whatever open rooms that are hosted by users right then – or a selection of themed rooms centrally hosted by BigScreen themselves. There’s even the possibility to buy tickets and attend their VR cinema with high-quality streaming of movies from an official partnership with Paramount Pictures – and this includes 3D movies!

It’s recommended that the person who hosts a BigScreen session runs it from a PC-VR setup because it allows for up to 12 participants. If hosted directly from an Oculus Quest or Go, the limitation is four people in a room.

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2. Horizon Workrooms

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Horizon Workrooms is Facebook's internally developed collaboration tool for Oculus Quest 2. Its standout features are the tight integration with your normal PC workflow including keyboard tracking, the solid avatar system, and the ability to use your controller as a whiteboard marker by holding it "upside-down".

Workrooms is a step above the competition when it comes to mixed reality-sprinkled features. Typing on your real keyboard through the "Desk Passthrough" option (when you don't own one of the keyboards with real-time tracking support) is a joy. The spatial audio latency and quality is remarkably good, adding much to the sense of immersion and co-presence with friends or colleagues. Some missteps in the user onboarding experience sadly detract from the overall impression - which is still decidedly top tier.

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3. vSpatial

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vSpatial: App overview by XR4work

What is it?

**vSpatial is a VR-based application that remotely connects to your PC desktop, to bring the power of your PC into your VR headset. **It uses a client installed on the PC to communicate with your headset locally over a local area network or through the internet connecting through the vSpatial communications server so that you can use your PC through your headset from anywhere you can get an internet connection.

Who is vSpatial for?

vSpatial is for individual users looking to leverage the power of VR in performing their daily PC based work and activities. Additionally, users and groups looking to work and collaborate in VR and need the power, resources and applications provided through the desktop, would find vSpatial an ideal platform.

What does vSpatial run on?

The vSpatial client runs on a Windows 10 based computer. vSpatial provides applications for several different VR HMD’s. They presently support Oculus Quest and Rift, and the steam platform headsets, Windows mixed reality, Index and Vive.

What are the features of vSpatial?

vSpatial uses a concept of a futuristic digital office in which to place the user. When the user enters their office, they are looking out across a desk at a 360 image that surrounds the space. VSpatial provides 6 stock 360 images to use based on your preference. The main control panel hovers in front of and just above the user’s head where they access many of the features of the application. Open to the left are controls in widgets that affect the settings and configurations of vSpatial. Once the connection is made to the host computer, the user can access the full desktop and all its applications and resources using the controllers or hand tracking. As applications are launched they become available to be pulled down into the circular carousel that surrounds the user. Each application becomes a discrete window in that carousel.

Users can invite and add other users to their vSpatial contacts list. From the contact list, you can then invite and start meetings of up to sixteen individuals, who appears seated at the desk across from you. VSpatial utilizes the Oculus Avatar system to represent users. In the case of the steam client, users select a pre-configured avatar for use in meetings. During meetings users can share individual desktops for applications with other users allowing multiple users to share multiple screens at the same time.

The Quest release offers the ability to map the Logitech k830 keyboard and use hand tracking for typing and mouse entry. Quest also provides an in app camera allowing the user to participate in video conferences using their avatar while in vSpatial.

There are differences in the future set’s and version releases between the Quest platform and the steam platform. While meetings can be held within vSpatial across the platforms there are some functionality differences that may crop up. For instance, there is no hand tracking or in app camera support in the steam version. Users also can only connect locally using the steam version. However, since the Steam version is running on the actual PC the headset is connected to, this allows more simultaneous windows open at a time. Remote connectivity over the internet is only possible with the Quest at the moment.

What is the cost of vSpatial?

Presently you can try vSpatial for free and access your desktop and applications from within your VR headset.

The pricing model at present is based on feature sets. Users can get the virtual webcam and mic for a onetime fee of $3.99. They can access the remote desktop features over the internet for $4.99 a month. And can access the collaboration features to connect with up to 16 users for $5.99 a month.

vSpatial plans to offer Pro and Enterprise tiers in the near future bundling some of the feature-set mentioned along with new offerings.

XR4work assessment of vSpatial

  • Consumption/Retention of Information: 5/5 (How well can users access and refer to info in the environment)
  • Production/Efficiency of Creating Content: 4/5 (How well can users create content in the app)
  • Flow/Ergonomics of UI: 4/5 (How easy is it for users to navigate and use the environment and tools)
  • Social/Collaboration Features: 3/5 (How well can users interact and work together in the app)
  • Value: 5/5 (Total cost of ownership relative to offering and other similar platforms)

Written by Rick Casteel / XR4work

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4. Spatial

Spatial collaborative platform

In Spatial, your VR meetings will have a whiff of magic about them. It feels like the best science fiction brought alive. This is a tool for truly native digital meetings. Additionally, Spatial can also be useful as a thinking and planning space for yourself, without bringing other people with you.

First, the avatars. When you sign up in the browser, you upload a photo or take one with your webcam. In seconds, that photo is rendered into a realistic-looking 3D copy of your face, attached to a t-shirt-wearing torso. It’s the first wow moment of many with Spatial.

Being built originally for AR headsets (it has both Hololens and Magic Leap support), Spatial now also runs on Oculus Quest. It was just officially released in the official Quest store, and it’s free for most normal use. Furthermore, for those without either VR or AR hardware, Spatial has an excellent browser participation mode. It lets users join from desktop or mobile, and while those users don’t get avatars, they can share their webcam into the Spatial scene. They can also upload files or write notes that show up in the meeting. Lastly, a mobile app for both Android and iOS is in beta, and lets users navigate in the virtual space on the screen OR activate augmented reality mode to display the meeting in their own surroundings.

Speaking of files showing up – here’s the next special piece of Spatial. When you bring things into the meeting, it feels like you’re magically conjuring them from thin air! From VR, you can share local files from your headset, or glimpse down on your phone or computer to select files using browser mode. There’s support for images, videos, pdf’s, and 3D objects.

But you can also use the embedded search function and type or speak your “wish” into Spatial. It will show you an assortment of search results in the shape of 2D images or simple 3D objects (from Google and Sketchfab, respectively), from which you simply “pluck” stuff.

There are four virtual environments (including one that’s pretty much an empty space) in Spatial, and they all have a spacious and future-y, tasteful feel. It officially supports 30 participants in VR, with an additional 20 joining from the browser spectator mode – BUT the VR meeting spaces in Spatial will feel quite crowded with more than 15 or so avatars in them.

The user interface of Spatial is very intuitive, with simple icon-based commands from a menu that you can activate at any time. It even has support for handtracking, making it possible to virtually shake hands and express yourself more clearly with hand gestures. Conjuring and manipulating 2D (images, notes/whiteboards – including typing with a virtual keyboard OR handwriting with a pen) and 3D objects is a breeze.

Simply put – Spatial is special. You really have to try it.

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5. Noda

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6. Virtual Desktop

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