The internet has changed a lot of things since it first began as a collection of connected computers in the 1960s. Today, virtual spaces are revolutionizing the way that business professionals meet and collaborate, regardless of physical location or space considerations.
I spoke with Jim Intriglia, a VR consultant, to gain some perspective on the benefits of virtual reality, virtual collaboration spaces, and how VR is being used by professionals in the business world.
Taylor: Jim, let’s begin with your definition of what a virtual space is.
Jim: A virtual space is an artificial, computer-generated environment you can interact with in virtual reality. They can be modeled after real world places or created entirely from fantasy.
Because these spaces aren’t physical, they’re not limited by the availability of physical space, the cost of office furniture, and computer technology, like hardware monitors, keyboards and trackpads.
Taylor: How are professionals typically making use of virtual spaces?
Some professionals are creating a virtual workspace that is better suited to their needs, wants and desires.
All that’s needed today is a small investment in VR technology, a high-speed Internet connection and voila! A business executive, entrepreneur or professional has a dream virtual workspace that can enhance their physical space, especially when traveling on business.
For example, many professionals like myself need more than a single display monitor to maximize productivity during the day.
Quality, high resolution display monitors cost upwards of $350 per monitor. Many professionals prefer a minimum of three monitors, or one of those wide-screen monitors that typically cost over a thousand dollars.
There is the challenge of figuring out a way to arrange or otherwise stack additional display monitors in a fixed workspace, which typically consists of a single desk or standing workstation.
Using a virtual reality application like vSpatial, I can engage with a virtual workspace that features multiple display monitors situated where I need them to be in my virtual workspace.
vSpatial is a MS Windows PCVR application that features the vSpatial Workplace, consisting of four key functions: 1) Productivity, 2) Collaboration, 3) Teaming, and 4) Presenting.
The 2D Windows 10 O/S and MacOS PC applications are free for a limited time and provide the same capabilities/benefits as the PCVR version. The vSpatial application is supported on the Oculus Go and the Quest headset (by invitation to the Beta test program.)
Using vSpatial, I'm not limited by the cost of each monitor and mounting equipment, power, or electrical outlet constraints.
My virtual workspace can also be used to host meetings and collaborative working sessions, which saves time and money, as there are no travel costs to meet with others in a virtual space.
Taylor: How was the vSpatial application introduced to the marketspace?
Jim: According to Daniel Platt, Director of Product and Programs at vSpatial, the March 2020 launch of the production version of vSpatial provided free use of the app for a limited time. This decision was made due to world events surrounding Covid-19 and the increased need to be able to work and learn at home. The free offering included a 16 user-limit for vSpatial meetings, 4 shared screens per user, and no time-cap for meetings.
Taylor: What was your reaction when you used the vSpatial app for the first time?
Jim: My reaction was one of surprise. My first use of the production version of vSpatial application went very smoothly. I started out thinking I would invest about 30 minutes of time, working in my vSpatial workspace. Two hours later, I was chugging along, completing all the work I usually do in my physical real-world workspace.
I experienced no major glitches with the first product release of vSpatial, thanks to the efforts of the development and test teams, resolving issues and following-up on feature requests during the product’s early access development phase.
As my Logitech trackball was functional in my vSpatial virtual workspace, I enjoyed much of the same benefits using my trackball to navigate around and control monitors, screens, and applications in my virtual workspace.
Taylor: Did you meet with anyone in your virtual workspace?
I met with Daniel and had a productive discussion about the application. I was able to share with him my virtual monitors, simply by toggling a switch on the monitor that I wanted to share with him. The audio quality was good during our meeting, and Daniel’s avatar representation in my meeting space gave me the sense of presence that I experienced with other virtual collaboration platforms.
During my vSpatial working session, I found a hack whereby I could use voice to text translation, leaving the virtual keyboard for text editing. A voice-to-text interface in a virtual space represents a huge boost in productivity, I hope to see legacy hardware like display monitors and keyboards go the way of other legacy data input/output devices, like floppy disks and paper-tape readers.
Taylor: What does the future hold for virtual workspaces like vSpatial?
Jim: I’m going to continue to explore, along with VR application developers, the possibility of integrating third-party voice-to-text applications, like Dragon Professional.
As headset camera and other spatial sensing technology evolves, along with facial feature tracking capability, it’s probable that future VR experiences will not need to rely on VR headset hand controllers, physical and virtual keyboards, and mouse/trackballs. Over time, I believe all these devices will become relics of the physical computing world.
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