By Taylor Roatch, with Jim Intriglia
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 making waves in people’s professional and personal lives.
I met recently with Jim Intriglia, a speaker at the 2020 Educators in VR International Summit event, 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.
So, what’s a virtual space?
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 space, the cost or rarity of building materials, or even the technology on hand.
For instance, one way people are using virtual spaces is to build their dream office. They can add as many monitors as their heart desires, placing them precisely where they want them.
People creating a virtual workspace can create a design that suits their needs and preferences, from a functional and aesthetic perspective.
Creators designing a VR workspace don’t need to carve out fixed physical square footage. They don’t need to buy lots of expensive equipment or hire a contractor. They simply need to invest in some basic VR technology and voila! They’ve got the office they always dreamed of without building the office they always dreamed of.
Jim: That's one of the more exciting use cases I've came across early in my VR research project. There are professionals who use three or more monitors daily in our workspace. Decent quality display monitors can range in cost, beginning at around $350 USD, depending on the nature of the application. Then, there is the challenge of stacking the monitors on and around a working space, typically a desk or standing workstation. Finding the right workspace furniture, monitor mounting equipment, and a space that will accommodate all this gear, can be a challenge and expense.
Using a virtual reality application like vSpatial, I can engage 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 is 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.
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. This free offering will include a 16 user-limit for vSpatial meetings, four shared screens per user, and no time-cap for meetings.
My first use of the production version of vSpatial application surprised me. I planned to invest about 30 minutes of time working in my virtual vSpatial workspace, and 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 I 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.
My first virtual meeting with Daniel in my vSpatial workspace was productive. I was able to share with him any of my virtual monitors, simply by toggling a switch on the virtual monitor that I wanted to share with him. The audio quality was good during our meeting, and Daniel 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, using the virtual keyboard for editing text. For me, this hack represents a significant boost in productivity, as well as progress toward retiring the keyboard as a command and data input device.
I’m continuing to explore integration possibilities with third-party voice interface applications, such as Dragon Professional. As VR headsets continue to refine their external camera capabilities and introduce eye-tracking features, there is future potential for VR experiences that no longer rely on legacy keyboard and mouse/trackball, which over time, will become yet another relic of the physical computing world.
At the end of my successful two-hour vSpatial working session, I began to seriously consider use cases where is would be beneficial to work entirely within my vSpatial virtual workspace.
Virtual spaces aren’t just for high-tech professionals. There are ways that everyone everywhere could benefit from this technology.
Virtual spaces can provide new ways to share information and learn from layman and professionals alike.
A virtual reality experience has the power to change the way we take in information and communicate with one another across distances. You’ve seen the commercials where two (famous) people are sitting on their couches in separate places, watching a TV program together despite the miles between them.
Jim: When the average person engages with what I consider to be a good virtual reality experience, they'll discover that VR is truly a unique medium, unlike anything that they have experienced.
Users that engage some of the best VR experiences are granted full agency over their experience, meaning that their actions determine how their VR experience will unfold. Each encounter that they have immersed in a virtual reality experience is unique from previous experiences.
VR experiences are about actively engaging a person, so that they are a part of the experience itself.
Jason Moore announced his second virtual reality meta-movie Alien Rescue. Tapping the creative genius of key creators that call NeosVR their virtual home, Jason is breaking new ground on applications for virtual spaces that offer a high degree of user interactivity with virtual objects and avatars.
Learn more about what a meta-movie is, by viewing the introduction to the meta-movie project.
Continue reading part 2 of this article: VR and Remote Learning for Business Professionals.