I spent a day working in Windows 10 Mixed Reality

I spent a day working in Windows 10 Mixed Reality
From Engadget - November 11, 2017

Before I go any further, I should tell you not to try this at your workplace. Keeping yourself in virtual reality for that long at a time, especially without frequent breaks, can be taxing on your eyes and possibly even your mental health.

I started my day with our usual editorial meeting and then plugged in an Acer Mixed Reality Headset to my office-issued Dell XPS 15. Setup was a breeze, but then I had a decision to make. I needed to keep my mouse and keyboard if I wanted to maintain my normal workflow. We had the motion controllers in the lab, but I might hit my colleagues next to me and behind me. Since I like my colleagues, I opted for an Xbox One controller to move around the Cliff House. After all, I had to stay at my desk, facing forward.

I picked a spot in the virtual house with two walls (one in front of me, one behind me) and a beautiful lake view with a tree and some floating islands. It's the closest I have ever come to a corner office. On both walls, I started to open a few windows, and there was my first hiccup: You can use only a few apps from the Microsoft Store.

To get around not having HipChat, I logged in through the Edge browser. But my bookmarks and tools are in Chrome, so I had to open up a virtual version of my desktop and place it on a wall. I also use TweetDeck, Firefox, Sublime Text, Photoshop and a number of other apps that do not work natively in Windows Mixed Reality. Since I use three monitors at once, I placed them on both walls and turned as necessary to see them.

If this sounds tiring, that's because it is. Eventually, I made one big monitor my main view and switched it between my three desktops with a dedicated button as necessary. Of course, that meant I missed out on some emails and messages. While Outlook's notifications are built into Windows, HipChat's are not, so they did not pop up in the Cliff House.

When I was writing in a Google Doc, the system was usable. The text was not all that crisp, and I could see the pixels, and the Acer headset's 1440 x 1440 lenses have blurry peripheral vision. But it was only when I needed to use multiple programs at once that the experience got hectic. At first, I would flail wildly with the Xbox controller, researching, then typing, and back again. Whether I did that or clicked back and forth between monitors, it was kind of a mess. You can have only one virtual desktop running at a time, too. The rest go to sleep unless you click on them and actively use them.

Of course, before getting to do any work, I was constantly adjusting my distance from the document, as it was too big or too small. Eventually, I hit my Goldilocks position and tried to stay there as much as possible.

And there were other hiccups. When viewed through the headset, my desktop just did not respond to some clicks, or needed to be clicked multiple times. I could not tell you why, but sending a new email in Outlook required multiple tries, as did creating a new Google Doc.

At one point, I needed another browser window. I tossed Edge on a wall over my right shoulder and had to walk over to it when I needed to reference it. When I came back, I lost my Goldilocks spot and had to find it again. And every time I tried to place a cursor somewhere, the VR keyboard would pop up, even though I was using a real keyboard, and I swatted it closed like I was squashing a fly.

Once, when I was researching a product on Amazon, I hit a key combination and the entire website fell off the wall. I could not pin the site back, so I deleted it and created a new version to pin it back against the wall where it belonged.

All of this, of course, slowed me down. I was not as productive as I would have been with proper monitors, and, perhaps, proper socialization.

Caitlin McGarry (@Caitlin_McGarry) November 1, 2017


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