Virtual Desktop app: the first step towards a VR workstation?

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Virtual Desktop is a $15 application developed by Guy Godin for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The application lets users operate their computers in VR. After installing and running the app, and donning a Rift or a Vive, a user can see a recreation of their Windows setup in VR.

To get an idea of what the experience is like, imagine a huge screen on which your computer screen is projected. On this virtual screen you can browse the web, send email, watch movies, and play games. The Windows display is projected onto a variety of backgrounds one can choose from.

Judging from user reviews, the app’s optimal function as it stands now is mostly for developing games rather than doing other types of work. The app is also great for watching movies and videos as you have the option of enlarging your Windows screen to give the impression that you are in an actual cinema.

Using Virtual Desktop allows developers to keep the headset on while working with game editors. On pressing the preview button, the desktop screen instantly transforms to the actual game which can be reviewed without removing the headset – a great productivity booster.

Working as you would normally on your computer is a different story though. Wearing a headset makes it difficult to gauge where the computer keys are. Unless you are a wiz at touch-typing, you’re going to have to remove the headset from time to time to see what you’re doing. This is where the HTC Vive’s built in camera comes in handy as it gives you a continual view of your actual environment, including the keyboard.

Another great productivity booster would be multiple screens deployed in virtual reality. At this point, Virtual Desktop only supports multiple monitors when it is in Multi-Monitor mode and only when more than one monitor is connected to the system. Projecting additional virtual desktops would be very useful for people currently experiencing cluttered workspaces because they need more than one monitor to do their work.

The question remains whether Virtual Desktop can actually function as a virtual desktop. Although most users who have tried it agree that the app is great for viewing, they agree that as an actual computing platform it needs some fine-tuning. Users have also commented that there are issues with peripheral vision that make text hard to read. Another point that has been made is the fact that the app doesn’t allow more than one person a view of the same screen, which would be great for collaborating on projects.

As it works now, Virtual Desktop let’s one use Windows in virtual reality, but the consensus is that it can’t be called and doesn’t function as an actual virtual desktop yet. As such it will require further iterations before people will replace their multiple monitor setups for it.