This absolutely, unbelievable story began at the moment our team leader, from another one of my startups, got tired of managing a motley team of “remote workers” and decided to resign. He said that being a manager of remote workers was much more difficult than doing the same thing in a traditional office.
Then I thought — why not create a virtual office and move everyone there, including the team lead. Let him finally get what he dreams of — programmers sitting at the same table in the meeting room, or working at computers in a common office. Convenient, familiar and family-like!
No sooner said than done! I started to develop a dream office, and the team leader promised not to quit, yet. He was also interested in how it would turn out. The programmers were worried about how this would affect eyesight.
- Would it make you sick?
- Would your head hurt?
- What would happen with productivity?
- Would the Mac be suitable for virtual reality?
I also had a lot of questions, but not a single answer. Would I be able to achieve daily teleportation of employees to the workplace without compromising their health? This task was not easy, and I became an experimental “guinea pig” using my own trials to explore uncharted waters. Would I survive? Only time would tell!
When I was younger, I dreamed of such a workplace, which could be changed by mood. Today you work under palm trees on the ocean, tomorrow your desktop is in the Himalayas, and the day after tomorrow — in a forest glade, where bears and moose roam. At that time, all this seemed to be unrealizable dreams, but after all, at one time there were no plans to use computers with the Internet! Now we are already on the verge of virtual reality, which is ready to break into our lives, turning everything upside-down. So, the experimental guinea pig scurries through the vastness of VR, sacrificing himself in the name of the bright future of mankind!
My task was simple — to understand whether it was realistic to sit in a VR office for 40 hours a week and still remain productive. This was my initial concern, but then I realized the even larger issues: “How to maintain health in a virtual office and not get a divorce from my wife.” Yes, imagine, family life can be stretched to the breaking point if everything isn’t well organized. A little later you will understand why, and what good is productivity without well-being and a happy home life?
Before becoming my own guinea pig, I decided to go to the doctor and ask for his approval.
“You’re crazy!” he said, as his glasses fell on the table with his surprise. “With your current medical issues, it’s not even recommended that you work for a long time at a computer, let alone work in a helmet for eight hours a day.”
The doctor was right — I wasn’t in perfect health to start. I had myopia with complex astigmatism, problems with the vestibular apparatus (I was sick with it even when driving in an ordinary car) and dry eyes after long hours on the computer.
But, the doctor, recovering from the first shock, nevertheless, gave me hope. “You know, I wouldn’t recommend it, but, perhaps, you could try. With our brains, distant objects in VR are much like distant objects in real life. If you periodically look into the distance (without leaving VR), your vision should not deteriorate. But, as always, if you experience any unpleasant symptoms during your time in VR, you should immediately stop the experiment. “
Oculos GO and the Zombie Attack
The first thing I bought was Oculos GO. It was a good first choice because it was inexpensive — about 200 euros. I found some kind of test game, after a couple of minutes terrible zombies attacked me, and I had to fight back! An hour later, my eyes ached, and I experienced slight nausea — either one of the zombies overdid it with a blow, or the helmet really worsened my health. Was my experiment going to end before it even got started?
I did not give up and decided to take a short break, but after an hour the sensation reappeared, and the doctor’s words resurfaced in my mind. … Did the zombies defeat me?
Later I tried to read Wikipedia articles through a browser in Oculos GO, after 30 minutes my eyes became very irritated and my head started to feel dizzy.
“Stop!” I said to myself. “The experiment has just begun, set aside the panic!” In addition to Oculos GO, there are many other devices, and they should also get a chance!
Samsung Odyssey +
It turns out that there are helmets working autonomously like Oculos Go, while others use the power of a PC to render a picture, sending the final image to the helmet. I bought one of these devices — it turned out to be a Samsung Odyssey Plus worth 500 euros. The stakes were rising, and with them a new hope arose to find a solution and make a breakthrough into another dimension!
The advantage of this helmet was the high resolution, which at this price was very pleasing! In order to “use” this state-of-the-art equipment, I had to install Windows on a Mac and connect a powerful video card through a special black box — eGPU. In general, it was a pain, then in silence, finally, I put on my helmet and relaxed … Hurray! In Samsung Odyssey + I saw a computer screen! I was all ready to celebrate the victory, but …
Blurred Text in Odyssey
I prepared for a new virtual journey — softened the brightness and increased the screen. Staying on the other side of reality should be comfortable! At first, I was worried that I would, again, have problems with my eyes or would feel sick, but thank God this did not happen, and I relaxed. But alas, Virtual Reality still didn’t want to cooperate. The text on the screen was not clear, like looking into a puddle after the rain, but, I persevered, uncomfortable and frustrated, for two and a half hours.
Towards the end of the day, I delivered a ruthless verdict. Yes, Samsung Odyssey + does not cause nausea when working on a computer, but constantly peering into blurry text is hell. In general, do not use VR instead of monitors — and you will be much happier. I hope in the future there will be daredevil researchers who “conjure” virtual headsets to replace monitors. In the meantime, you need to look for a new way to work in VR and enjoy it, and not suffer …
Adventure with Vive Pro
You think after two unsuccessful experiments I would have given up? No, on the contrary, I was even more inspired. My idea did not let me sleep at night — I dreamed of helmets, computers, blurry letters and scary zombies that chased me until the morning. Sometimes I was able to hear the voices of the doctor and team leader, but what they said — I can’t remember …
In my research on the virtual reality market, I made some progress when I learned that there are helmets with a great image. These are Pimax and Vive Pro. Advanced Pimax ordering was unrealistic, and I focused on the second helmet.
I bought a Vive Pro complete set with two controllers and two base stations for 1,400 euros. As it turned out later, the controllers are not needed for operation, and one base station is enough. I could save 500 euros.
After working the day in my new helmet, I realized that here it was — acceptable quality. I could read the text perfectly. My head wasn’t spinning. Everything was cool!
My attempts to find convenient software for team work weren’t quite as successful. I found pieces of 5–6 solutions, but none of them were practical for everyday use. Nowhere did I find tools for managing employees, access rights, conference rooms, etc., that would be appropriate for our needs.
Creating our own VR Office
I decided to put together a small team. After a couple of weeks of tough selection, I found two talented programmers — Alex and Yury, who were able to complete my difficult test task and not fail the interview. Just a week later, I was already working on my VR software. So far, alone. Much more work had to be done for the network.
All was good. But as soon as some resource-intensive application was launched, lags in VR immediately began to appear. When virtual reality freezes, EVERYTHING freezes. Immediately there is a feeling of nausea. This problem wasn’t just in our software, but in all software.
Alex suggested an idea — What if we were to use not one computer, but two at the same time ?. — One PC would transmit a picture to the helmet, but you could work on the second!
… A good idea. I rushed to do it. Yesterday it had seemed as though our idea had collapsed, but today our wings began to spread. I assembled a new computer, plugged in a helmet, opened access to the remote desktop and a miracle happened! Two PCs worked simultaneously, without interfering with each other, and this did not affect the data transfer speed in VR.
Finally, VR Office with an acceptable degree of comfort was created, all obstacles, zombies and monsters fell in an unequal struggle, and a new prospect opened up before us — to create our dream office, where everyone would have their own paradise …
The morning after the New Year began different than any other. We were thinking about where to get the keyboard for inputting text in VR. As a result of heated discussion, four ideas appeared.
- We could connect the special Logitech keyboard to Vive Pro, and it would be displayed in VR. The problem was that this solution was no longer officially supported and it was difficult to get the right equipment.
- We could hang the camera over the main keyboard, and the picture would be transmitted to the helmet, a very cumbersome and ridiculous decision.
- We could print one letter at a time using the controller. Suitable for very small messages like “Hello. How are you? ”
- Or we could master the art of blind typing.
Option 4 was the most logical — the decision was made unanimously.
Well, we mastered the blind typing in two weeks.
All that remained to be dealt with was the macOS. Many, including me, really didn’t like working in Windows.
I spent a lot of time on thematic forums on the Internet, but I couldn’t find an answer, although on one site they promised to release software for macOS soon. I really didn’t want to wait!
I found out about a cool thing today, guys! — Yury called me on Skype and talked about AirPlay, a program that uses Apple to transfer data to other devices. In this program there is a very interesting desktop mirror option, which can be broadcast on Windows.
But the problems snowballed! When I worked with a mouse or typed, there were delays on the screen, and that spoiled the whole damn mood for everyone. And then the sound began to slow down, so I had to connect separate headphones with a microphone to the macOS. The wife had already begun to show the first signs of discontent. It could be understood, because I practically never climbed out of virtual reality …
Rejection of the controllers
One of the important points of the February experiments was the rejection of the controllers. What use do they serve, if after several minutes of inactivity in VR, they become invisible? You have the option of using the keyboard to move, it is always at hand.
Another problem was the inability to see the mouse in VR. “I feel like a mouse hunter,” Yury complained. — While you are feeling around on your desk for it, eternity passes! It’s really tiresome … I could just use the keyboard combined with the touchpad!
My wife was becoming even more offended, perceiving my immersion in virtual reality as always being away from home …
Despite family problems, we continued to create and create. We managed to create 3D avatars for group work using photographs. These were not cartoon characters, but realistic representations of our team! Animation and lip movements for speech — it was so cool!
Hands instead of controllers
I ordered LeapMotion to use my hands instead of controllers, and I did not regret it. One menu is worth it!
“We have problems again, guys,” came Alex’s voice. — The tape strap came loose. Damnit! Why don’t they have a normal mount for Vive Pro? Oh, never mind, I’ll stick with the tape!
Even though the situation was not ideal, we persevered and continued forging new ground with our new technology.
And then we realized that the Leap Motion device, could, at times, block the signal from the base station and create interference. Lags appeared again!
Well. What to do? “We will have to wait for the releases of the built-in version from Vive Pro, ”Yury said sadly. — “They say that in the coming months they will definitely appear …”
The only thing that really pleased all of us, was the visualization of hands in the VR Office through the network. So, we hadn’t done all of this for nothing!
“Do you want a wife or virtual reality?”
Yes, it was precisely this choice that my wife gave me, tired of my endless experiments with VR.
“As soon as you wake up in the morning, you put on your helmet right away.” She began the conversation, and it was clear that her patience was already at the limit. — “You take off your helmet only when you go to the toilet or eat, and in the evening you fall into bed and immediately fall asleep. I don’t understand, do I have a husband or not? Maybe it’s better to get a divorce?”
If you constantly stay up too late working, you are familiar with these situations …
Choose — the helmet, or me! — I was not offered any other solutions, I preferred a wife to a helmet…
On March 9, I told my beloved wife how important this project was to me, and that it could change the world in the near future. If people didn’t need to go to work every day, how easy life would be! There would be fewer cars on the streets, which means that the environment would improve. Company owners wouldn’t have to rent offices, and it wouldn’t matter which country you lived in to find a job. There would be a large selection for both employers and job seekers, and vacancies would be filled much faster. My wife was inspired by these ideas, and she decided to help me with this project, after this conversation. My wife worked with me for several hours a day, after her studies, and all the time we saved, thanks to her help, we spent together.
VR without cables
In May, we were drawn out into the streets … The weather was getting warmer and I wanted to breathe more fresh air, so we switched to wireless helmets and became untethered from our desks. The base station worked fine through the glass, but I had to carry the adapter with me.
“I like the cable more — it’s somehow easier with it, and you don’t need to attach the antenna to the door and change the battery every three hours,” Alex said thoughtfully.
This month I was invited to a military university in Germany, where I spoke to German students. One of the professors became interested in my work and suggested doing an experiment with students, on the safety of VR for extended use. A very interesting proposal, and something that we will definitely conduct in the near future!
UFO and Eyesight
I began to see better thanks to the application to strengthen eyesight.
You can follow the UFO without taking your eyes off of them, and they fly and change direction. The main thing is to follow with your eyes. It really works! It’s a pity that you can’t do without controllers — they haunt me everywhere, like those damn zombies!
Down with the Second Keyboard!
We worked on this problem for a long time and still got rid of the second KB. What a blessing! Thanks to Alex and Yury, who came up with how to make clicking on the keyboard in Mac transfer to Windows (VR computer). You guys are geniuses!
One button and You’re in VR
We are all very lazy, so for us running a Mac, being able to be in virtual reality with the click of a single button is the most convenient feature. Imagine you clicked a button and almost instantly see a Mac in a helmet. Although, maybe, we are not lazy; we just love efficient and ergonomic solutions? For example — tap the Vive button and tape it down so that it does not turn on each time. Ah, laziness can be the mother of invention!
+40°C in July
The helmet was not hot, my face was not sweating. Of course it works more comfortably at adequate temperatures.
Vive Pro — $ 1300. But I’d rather take a Vive Pro eye without controllers (this should be available soon) and with one base station for $ 900
PC — $ 1600
Equipment for high-quality transfer of a picture from a macOS to Windows — $ 300 (you can use an Airplay for free)
Dreams Come True!
The dream that I have dreamed about since childhood has finally became a reality. We managed to solve all the problems and overcome obstacles! Now I have been working in the VR office for more than 6 months, and soon one of my other startups will receive funds to transfer the entire team to VR. All that remains is to get a VR Stylus and lip tracker — and we will be fully prepared for full work in the VR office of our dreams.