Big tech companies have big promises around virtual reality (VR) and the metaverse. What among other things redefine the future of the workplace. But the concept might struggle to take off with business users if it doesn’t bring a lot of productivity benefits.

According to a new study by Dr. Jens Grubert, a specialist in human-computer interaction at the University of Coburg, Germany, there is still work to be done before the systems are ready for the majority of workers. “The study finds that VR leads to significantly worse ratings for most cases,” the doctor and his research team note in the non-peer-reviewed paper “Quantifying the Effects of Working in VR for One Week.”

The study consisted of observing 16 people during a work week. Half of the participants used VR headsets at work for eight hours a day for five days, and the other half were in a classic configuration. Each participant then switched to the other configuration. The goal was to quantify the effects of swapping a desktop work environment with an average VR setup.

The Big Question of Helmeted Productivity

For the desktop side of the experiment, participants had a browser and Chrome Remote Desktop to connect to the computer. When it comes to VR, the researchers chose the Oculus Quest 2 because it can track the user’s hands. The keyboard used for the experiment was the Logitech K830 with an integrated touchpad.

All of the experimental subjects were university employees.

Desktop users reported higher perceived productivity than headset users. VR users also scored significantly higher on frustration than desktop users. The researchers also measured presence, “negative affect”, well-being, anxiety, visual fatigue and heart rate. Desktop users performed better in all measures except heart rate, where there was no significant difference. Two participants dropped out on the first day of VR due to migraines, nausea, and anxiety.

Some VR users have reported positive experiences

The study also looked at typing speed. It reveals that desktop users were significantly faster. Participants reported disliking the weight of the screen in the helmet and the pressure against their face, as well as the time wasted removing the helmet to drink or eat.

Some VR users have reported positive experiences, however. Four of the VR participants enjoyed the experience in a professional setting. Some enjoyed “pausing and staring at an empty space.”

Nine participants said they liked that the isolation in the VR condition allowed them to focus more on the tasks at hand, because they weren’t distracted, especially in combination with the music in their headphones. However, it could also have drawbacks, and three participants said VR was “a bit scary” because they couldn’t see the presence of other people in the real world.

Only three of the 16 participants said they preferred VR

Only three of the 16 participants said they preferred VR. But all participants believe they can imagine the use of VR for work in the future, if certain conditions are met. For example: having lighter screens with higher resolution and being able to have multiple screens. Additionally, all participants mentioned that they could imagine themselves using VR for a limited time.

A week after the experiment, the participants were also asked if they had observed any other effects. One participant mentioned that sometimes over the weekend she felt like she was still wearing the headset, while two others said they were “amazed at how detailed the real world is” after removing helmet.

But in the end, the researchers conclude that the metaverse technology is not ready for widespread use to work for a full week in a professional setting. The researchers noted that given the limitations of current technology and the fact that VR provides a virtual approximation of the real environment, they do not expect VR to outperform conventional work – which also was confirmed by the results.

“Nevertheless, there is some evidence that participants gradually overcame negative first impressions and initial discomfort. Overall, this study helps lay the groundwork for further research, highlighting current gaps and identifying opportunities to improve the work experience in VR,” they said.

Source: ZDNet.com

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Tarun Kumar

Tarun Kumar has worked in the News sector for 05 years and is currently the Owner and Editor of Then24. He reside in Delhi, India with his Family.