Tuesday, 21 June 2016 12:33

Virtual Reality headsets propel future of remote working Featured

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Minority Report and Ready Player One are almost upon us. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets aren't just for gamers; they also show the future of remote working.

I received my long-awaited Oculus Rift virtual reality headset last week and, as immersive and amazing as games and other experiences are, there is one aspect which really caught my imagination and fascination and I am left truly awestruck by it.

I am speaking of BigScreenVR which is available free from Steam.

It is difficult to convey in words what an experience this was. The fundamental premise of BigScreenVR is you are transported to a stylish house with multiple seating locations — outside balcony overlooking a city skyscape, the kitchen, the lounge room  or even, if you prefer, a canyon or foreign planet.

You sit alongside your friends or colleagues or even strangers. You can control this; there are public spaces and private space options.

So far, this is "regular" social networking in virtual reality  itself an impressive experience  but where BigScreenVR really sets itself apart is that your actual computer desktop is represented right in front of you.

You can enlarge, shrink, curve, move and generally manipulate your desktop for the most comfortable and engrossing experience. You then literally do anything on your desktop you can do, well, on your desktop. This includes playing Minecraft, writing emails, browsing the Web, doing your taxes, making a presentation, watching a movie or anything else.

Your fellow BigScreenVR attendees can, likewise, use their desktops. And you can see their desktops, and they can see yours. In VR space you literally see heads moving as they browse your screen, or turn towards you to talk in positional 3D audio.

Click a button and your desktop is projected onto the massive TV screen in each room, allowing a collective experience together. Sit back and watch a movie. Or sit back and gather around a PowerPoint presentation on sales performance.

Here's where BigScreenVR really impressed me. I have spent hours — oh so many hours  on GoToMeetings and other teleconference systems. Yet, no matter how engaging anyone tries to make a remote conference, it is always easy to be distracted. Yet, with BigScreenVR the action is all around your eyes. You are literally in the room together, despite being separated across the world and in different timezones.

While the technology still has to evolve  at this time pretty beefy PC specs are needed to make it run, and the text isn't so crisp that you can comfortably read Arial 10pt font in Microsoft Word  it is clear to me this is the future of remote working.

Your office workers can be anywhere in the world, but yet collaborate in the same space. Diagnose problems by looking over someone's shoulder at their screen. Speak and see immediately who is speaking. Put information on the big screen for an impromptu or planned meeting. The tyranny of distance, the scourge of distractions, and the problems of collaboration are resolved by having your own virtual meeting space.

I was truly impressed and I strongly urge you to check it yourself if you have the opportunity.

The future is happening around us; along with self-driving cars becoming a reality, so too is the possibility of actually useful and viable virtual business.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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