The VR Workspace


I'm going to guess there's already a zillion blog posts like this but .... here's mine if only to record my thoughts so you can laugh at me in 3−5 years for dumb predictions.

A couple of weeks ago I go to see the Oculus DK3 Crescent Bay demo. Very very impressive. If you've used a DK2 (2014) it was mostly PS2 quality graphics. It still felt awesome to see things in stereoscopic 3D but Crescent Bay is somewhere at PS3 or PS4 level. On top of that it's 90fps and has skewing meaning if your head moves left/right, up/down, back/forward that's reflected in the simulation whereas DK2 (and Gear VR, Google Cardboard), currently only support head rotation. It makes a huge difference.

One demo a raptor lunges at me. I had to close my eyes. Of course I can't even play Doom3 as it's too scary for me so I suppose that's not saying much. Another demo has a flat shaded model trains set. It's not actually a model train but that's the easiest way to imagine it. Imagine you had an N gauge model train and it's about chest height in front of you. You can lean in and see the details. The people are actually walking around and it feels like it's right there in front of you. Not like a picture but actually there. You want to reach out and move things around. Yet another has a friendly E.T. like alien standing 1 or 2 ft away talking in alien to you. You feel like you could reach out and touch him, shake his hand (or whatever it is). That's not a feeling you from a 2D game even if they zoom in on the face. Another demos as a slow motion (bullet time) gun fight between a swat team and a 20ft tall spider like robot. You're slowly floating down the street by the police toward the robot. Bullet slowly pass by you with a matrix like shockwave trail in the air. Some go right by your face such that I was compelled to dodge them the same way I'd dodge a fly. I can see I'll pee my pants if I ever play a horror game in this thing.

Whether or not VR will take off for games I have no idea. On the one hand it seem inevitable. On the other there's still many issues. One is cost. Another is input, a joypad? PS Move like sticks? It's just not nearly as clear what's going to work. For a racing game or a flying game it's perfect as in those games their simulating a vehicle with controls that don't move relative to you. But an FPS has all kinds of issues. Are gamers really going to buy a 360 treadmill.

But, regardless of where games go I had another thought which I'm sure others have had. I'm typing this message on my 15inch laptop. If I was at work I had one 30 inch monitor and another 24 inch monitor. At home I had 2 20 inch monitors and a 24 inch. I miss those terribly when I'm on my laptop. But, if the resolution was high enough I could just plug into VR and have virtually unlimited monitors. How about a 90 inch monitor? Or nine 30inch monitors? One's got my shell, another some API docs, another my social media/email, another my profiler, yet another the runtime display of the thing I'm working on. Suddenly I have my workspace that used to be unportable completely portable.

I can imagine walking into any tech company in 5 years and instead of seeing desks with 2 or 3 monitors each just seeing a bunch of people with VR goggles on. Or maybe they'll have something like the Hololens and AR and you'll have 6 virtual monitors appearing as if they're on your desk so you can still see everyone else around you.

Then thinking about it more there are tons of companies showing off their input systems for VR. Some like sony have the PS Move sticks. Others have similar sticks but with magnetic sensors instead of a camera so they don't have the occlusions issues. Yet others have gloves. I haven't had a chance to try the gloves but assuming they work why wouldn't level designers and 3d artists also all be inside VR (or AR) in 5 years? Maya, 3DSMax and other modeling software would be so much easier in VR with gloves. Instead of trying to manipulate things with a mouse with all these modal modes for moving the camera vs moving objects and having to switch modes for scaling, translating, and rotating just reach out as though they were actual models sitting on your desk and move them. Super powerup for productivity and iteration. Imagine laying out levels by just placing objects with gloves in VR instead of all the frustrating mouse and keyboard manipulation we use now.

That part seems more inevitable to me than games. In other words, even if VR for games doesn't go mainstream VR for "creating" games seems like it must go in that direction and quickly. Putting on the DK3 it seems right around the corner.

What about other industries? Well architecture seems like an obvious fit. Others stuff I'm not so sure and probably requires a lot of research but it's fun to think about. If you were going to redesign photoshop or illustrator for VR what would the interface be like? Is that even something anyone would want?

Then there's the idea what if everyone was wearing AR glasses. You could just reach out in front of you and draw stuff in 3D and everyone else at a meeting could see it appearing in front of them. This would be just like so many Sci−Fi movies. In the movies it's always projected with some magic tech that puts it in the air but even if you only put the AR googles on while sitting in a meeting that tech could basically happen today.

As for the masses again I have no idea. Maybe kids would love to be able to chat in AR with their friends. Imagine you're a teenage girl who basically can't stay disconnected from her friends for more than a few minutes. Would she find AR compelling enough to make it mass−market if she could be in touch with more friends at once in AR than she can on her laptop?

That bring up another random thing. I played a VR game where there was a mirror. I could see my avatar in the mirror but of course it didn't smile when I smiled. Adding a couple of cheap $1 cameras to the headset to track my mouth, eyes, and eyebrows seems like a no−brainer. Once added virtual chat (or virtual party) becomes an entirely different thing than it is today. I guess it's kind like blogs were only for nerds in the early 2000s. Then facebook and twitter happened, now it's more common than not to share stuff publically. So maybe that's one way in. Virtual parties in VR with voice and facial expressions could be huge?

Talking to friends it's about 5 years away until the resolution is high enough for the virtual monitors. People have talked about this kind of stuff since I was a kid at least. Back then it was Sci−Fi. Now it seems it's just months away.

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