All the rich Zuckerbergs and like-minded tech bros of the world are convinced that the future is we all live, love and work in a virtual reality ‘metaverse’. But the findings of a new study suggest: that working in virtual reality will not actually increase an employee’s productivity, comfort or well-being. On the contrary.
As spotted by PC gamer, an experiment was conducted by a research team at Coburg University in Germany. The people gathered 16 individuals, 10 men and 6 women, and had them work in VR for a week using simple desktop setups and Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets. The results of this week-long survey were subsequently published in a paper titled “Quantifying the effects of working in VR for one week† Very catchy!
The week-long study suggests that working in VR appears to lower productivity and may also trigger migraines.
Participants worked in VR for seven days, with 45-minute lunch breaks, and were asked several times a day to rate their VR experience compared to working in a normal, real-life office with 10 metrics, including perceived productivity, frustration, well-being, and fear. Participants were also asked specific VR-related questions, such as whether they felt sick or if their eyes started to hurt. The research team also monitored their heart rate and typing speed.
It found that study participants felt that they had more work to do than in a normal office and felt more anxious and stressed while trying to do their work in VR. This led to a 14% drop in self-described productivity, with ‘frustration’ increasing by more than 40% compared to baseline. All of this contributed to an overall decline in mental well-being. And as you might expect, the participants suffered in various ways from increased eye strain, visual fatigue, nausea and migraines as a result of spending so much time in virtual reality.
Two people even had to drop out of the study due to frequent migraines and high levels of frustration, nausea and disorientation before the end of the first day of the study.
To be clear: this is just one study in a relatively young field. One of the main goals behind conducting it was to provide data that future researchers can build on for further research on the subject.
Some may be tempted to blame the negative findings on the hardware/software the study used, including Chrome Remote Desktop and off-the-shelf cheap VR headsets, but the paper explains that the researchers purposely used average technology, because this is closer to you. average desktop experience. And look, if the future is the metaverseit should work for everyone on all budgets, not just the affluent who can afford $3,000 PCVR setups.
But yeah, generally not good news for the Zuck. To wrap up, here’s the research team’s conclusion from the paper:
Overall, this study helps lay the groundwork for follow-up research, highlighting current shortcomings and identifying opportunities to improve the experience of working in VR. We hope this work will stimulate further research into longer-term productive in-situ work in VR.