I Spent Hundreds of Hours Working in VR. Here’s What I Learned

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hello from low earth Orbit! I’ve spent hundreds of hours here working in virtual reality. Even as I write this to you, I have Facebook’s Oculus strapped to my face and I’m immersed in an aptly named app. It puts me in this orbiting spacecraft where just me is, the computer screen in front of me, and – let me look out the window – Ecuador.

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I don’t know where Facebook’s Metaverse begins or ends; Maybe I’m in it now. But I’m primarily a writer of English text and computer code, a solitary profession that rarely requires real-time meetings in Metaverse demos. When I was a kid, I used to write homework essays on a manual typewriter. What I do now isn’t much different, except I don’t need to use all that white correction tape stuff to erase typos—and I’m in space.

Working from home certainly feels isolating for all of us who do, but when working from space I am a thousand kilometers away from the next human being.


I was not thinking of such things when I got this VR headset. I wanted to be more comfortable and relaxed while working. Sitting at a desk is the opposite of comfort. Working on the couch feels better at first, but always aborts using a laptop in which either the screen is too close or the keyboard is too far. Wouldn’t it be great if I had a screen floating in front of me in the right position?

VR desktop like engrossed Put you in an environment like this spaceship, or a mountain lodge, or a serene forest shrine, and project your computer screen in front of you. Enlarge your screen to a larger proportion if you wish. If you want a standing desk, just stand up and take a few seconds to flick your monitor to the right height.

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A month after I got the headset, I left my real-world desk.

You won’t see your keyboard, so get ready for hardcore touch typing lessons—try typing with a T-shirt on your hands and see how far you can get with zero visual feedback. There’s barely anything moving around you, so motion sickness hasn’t proven to be as much of a problem as it was with the VR roller coaster demo I downloaded once. The battery itself only lasted an hour or two, but I’m still deeply into cyberpunk—take a look at our article about the fight for who will represent the cyberpunk future—and now I’ve got to jack up the charging cable. I have to live that future by doing right in my face.

Rumor has it that some people use their VR headsets for games, but there’s a thrill to working from the vacuum of space. Can I blindly feel about the mug of tea on the table and bring it to my lips without putting the whole thing on my laptop? The stakes are high, and every successful sip is a win. One day, about three months after I started working on VR, my podcast cohost arrived, so I had to walk out after several hours with the headset strapped to my face. My head went numb. He said, “You look like you’ve been punched in the face.” Which fighting game can achieve this level of realism?

He was worried that my face would eventually stick up like that.

With hours in VR every day, will I go blind? I Asked Jerome Lagerton, Cofounder and Chief Clinical and Regulatory Officer inovega, an optics technology company. He was the first to explain where the VR eye strain primarily comes from: verification-housing conflict, If we are focusing on something at a certain distance, our eyes tend to converge or diverge at a certain angle, and our eyes have to simultaneously tighten or relax to change the shape and power of their lenses. adjusts the need for refocusing. You may have seen stereoscopes from the early days of photography, where the viewer places their face in front of a box containing two lenses, clips a double-image postcard to the front of the box, and slides the postcard forward until 3-D The image does not come into focus. ,

“You can trombone it. So when something appears close, you can literally get it closer,” says Lagerton. Your verification and accommodation can both adjust to the distance of the card. A VR headset is like a stereoscope of the 1800s, except that the image is on a screen facing right in front of your nose, and you are in space. Your eyes are free to change angles as pictures move across the screen, but your lenses are adjusting to screens that are a certain distance away. “This uniqueness of something that needs to be paired,” Lagerton told me about the eye strain caused by breaking the natural validation/housing pair, can be reversed by simply taking a break.

I’m still getting the purest possible artificial light in my eyes, but Lagerton assured me I should be disconcerted. “There is nothing to support that blue light emitted from displays is dangerous.” After all, “you get more blue light in five minutes outside than you get in eight to 12 hours of computer viewing.” I interpret that comment as reassurance that it’s a healthier thing to spend all my day in VR than to go out. But he tells me that the amount of blue light in the spectrum of our screens affects the chemical that helps us sleep. “Just take the blue part off and pick up the red and you’ll be drowsy. But if you have to pull off an all nighter, throw on the blue.”

The author’s virtual desktop, floating in orbit over Southeast Asia at night, inside a VR virtual work environment, immersed. Courtesy of Ben Clemens

Of the various environments I could beam into, I remain partial to orbiting the globe. On the left, the Milky Way; In the distance above, the Moon reflects the yellow fire stolen from the Sun; On the right, the lights of a city in South-East Asia are lit for me; And straight in front of me, an email telling me I need to change the billing code on my time card and resubmit ASAP. The slowly swirling globe displays all the places I could have explored and experienced if I hadn’t been completely isolated.

I start to wonder, will I go crazy on this spaceship? I asked Monidipa Tarfdar, a professor at the Eisenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, about the stress from using technology, which typically begins with working from home. “You’re kind of isolated, and technology is the only thing you’re interacting with. And everything gets bigger. All technical problems become bigger than they really are,” she says. . “And now you want to put virtual reality on top of that.”

In Research Paper, Tarfdar is careful to distinguish distress, which is the stress that makes us worse, from eustress, the stress that drives us to do better. “You’re missing out on positive stressors,” chief among them are other people. “Family life, I think, is a good thing.”

The persona of the immersed app is “Technique Bhai”. From the intro tutorial that tells me I’m going to have a crush today! In weekly emails comparing my time in VR to time spent by “power users,” it’s all about maximizing productivity. It’s true: I get so focused on the task, so deep in the field that I get my forehead numb. Signs like the sun going down on any other day are invisible to me, and without a view of the clutter in the meatspace room, I don’t distract myself by getting up every 20 minutes to clean something up.

Discord starts in the house.

But I’d like to use the headset in a way that’s less “crushing imaginary opponents” and more “corpse pose”. About six months after receiving this VR headset, in the back of a closet, I found one of those inflatable pool rafts on which people swim to enjoy the coolness of the water and the warmth of the sun. I put it on the floor of this room, where I now lie on it with every muscle. A virtual screen rotates one and a half meters above my head in a way that would only be possible with a real-world screen after a lot of carpentry. My hands are by my side on the laptop’s keyboard, to the right and to the left on the external keyboard plugged into the laptop. I have a hoodie pulled over my head, not because I’m an “elite hacker,” but because it lets me out of the heat. For this reason, I have covered myself in a blanket, only my chin is exposed and the sound of me typing these words is being conveyed to you.

This is what VR promises to work: for an absolute stillness but an active mind. The world doesn’t bother me, and I don’t bother with it in return.

I finally made it to the cyberpunk future I’ve always dreamed of, jacked into the Matrix, which is now rebranded as the Metaverse. But in all my excitement of getting there, I didn’t realize that by choosing to stay there, I was missing myself.

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