VR Desktop Apps: Can You Work in Virtual Reality?

I can trace my computing history along the screens I used. The 10-inch VGA monitor that came with the Packard Bell desktop computer in the ’90s was a huge leap forward over the low-resolution Apple II monitors I used at school. Then there was the 20-inch Sony Trinitron CRT flat screen monitor I brought to college with my first custom desktop, which served as the entertainment hub on the block for years. These days, I’m hooking up two 24″ 1080p LCD monitors at home, and I’m looking forward to upgrading to an ultra-wide screen at some point. After spending several hours with Virtual Desktop, a $15 app developed by Guy Godin for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive that brings the full Windows experience to virtual reality, it looks like we’re close to another screen revolution.

Virtual reality appears in the conversations of the tech world more and more these days. While a lot of attention is paid to the fantasy VR gaming scene or virtual reality experiences, there is indeed a very good area in which VR should be utilized as a productivity tool. The best example of this is the VR desktop app.

We set out to answer the question “Can you really work with a VR desktop?” Using two popular apps. The short answer isYes’, but there are some serious trade-offs.

VR Desktop Apps: Can You Work in Virtual Reality?  - Best

What is desktop VR?

before going any further. Let’s explain exactly what it is.”virtual reality desktop. Basically, it is a virtual environment that presents a view of your computer screen.

In other words, you will see a virtual screen that displays exactly the same information that you see on your physical screen. But instead of placing it on your desk in the room, in the office, or wherever it is designated, it is in a virtual space.

VR Desktop Apps: Can You Work in Virtual Reality?  - Best

What do I need to run desktop VR?

You may have heard that to use virtual reality with your computer, it must have huge specs. This is true when it comes to high-end VR video games that need mid-range or gaming components. When it comes to the desktop VR app, this is not true at all.

Exact minimum specs will vary from app to app, but if you have a recent quad-core laptop with an Iris Plus or similar GPU, it should probably work just fine. In our case we are using Oculus Quest in order to display the virtual desktop. So the system requirements of the computer itself are not that important.

VR Desktop Apps: Can You Work in Virtual Reality?  - Best

The VR environment is served by the Quest’s internal GPU, not the computer. If you would like to learn more, check out our article featuring a detailed Oculus Quest review. Another great feature of using virtual desktop applications on the Quest glasses is the wireless transmission feature. Although your network hardware must be compatible with it.

So, to summarize, you need three things to get your VR desktop working:

  • Desktop computer that meets minimum specifications.
  • Desktop VR app.
  • The VR glasses are compatible with the respective app.

Now you know what these apps are and what you need to use one of them, but why would you? Let’s take a look at the advantages that a virtual reality desktop brings to what is already available.

What are the advantages of using desktop VR?

There are some major advantages to using a virtual desktop solution. The first is that you can have as much space as you want with screen configurations that might be impractical in real life. Most people can’t afford to set up or fit six screens, but it can be done with a desktop VR app that supports it.

The second advantage is that you can create an environment where you can work in a focused manner without being distracted. Combine your VR headset with a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones and you’ll be operating in complete silence.

Another good feature of a virtual reality desktop setup is portability. If you are someone who travels and often have to sit and work in hotel rooms or other places where you can only use a laptop, it is not difficult to bring your own VR glasses with a large screen setup as you need in VR. Not to mention, you can use your virtual desktop as a personal cinema or set up a video game on the big screen!

If you use the desk setup to work standing up, a virtual desktop is ideal. Since you can position the virtual screens however you like in terms of ergonomics.

VR Desktop Apps: Can You Work in Virtual Reality?  - Best

Finally, it’s a great privacy measure. If you turn your screen off, only you can see what’s currently on your screen. This is a feature that many users will love.

There are certainly more reasons to go down the desktop VR path than this, but we think these are the three primary use cases. Now that we’ve covered the theory, let’s take a look at two of the best virtual reality desktop apps you can get today.

Virtual Desktop (Oculus Rift – $13.99, Oculus Quest – $20)

This is probably the best known virtual desktop application, and it definitely got priority to take advantage of the name that describes the genre! This app is only available as a paid app, but it has been around for a few years and the developer has invested that money in making it polished and stable.

Virtual Desktop on The Quest works wirelessly. We had a Windows PC connected to the router via Ethernet and the headset connected via 5GHz wireless tension. Whether for work or playing video games, we have never experienced any delays. The screen was crystal clear, regardless of the pixel grid effect on most VR glasses at the moment. Which is not the fault of these apps at all.

The virtual desktop is very simplified, and screens are easy to move and resize. Virtual Desktop supports many physical monitors, but as far as it provides it can’t be said that it doesn’t support the production of virtual monitors that you don’t actually have in the real world.

The app is incredibly stable and polished. It was easy to use and had decent integration with the new hand tracking feature in Oculus Quest. Which mostly means that you don’t need to use the touch controls.

Aside from the lack of virtual screens (and the lack of environment variety), the main drawback is the lack of a free version of the app. However, it is worth every penny for anyone looking for a polished and reliable personal VR work environment. However, it’s worth noting that the macOS version of the app is still in development, so this is a Windows-only option available for now.

Immersed VR (Oculus Quest – Free / $14.99 / $29.99)

Immersed VR is a new entrant into the virtual reality desktop world, but it’s already making some positive waves. The good news is that there is a category.”forever freeFor application on Oculus Quest and Oculus Go. The company plans to expand to other platforms in the future.

Immersed supports one virtual screen on the free plan and up to five devices on the paid monthly tier. It also provides more diverse environments. You can have public (free) and private (paid) cooperation in the virtual space with others. There is a neat virtual webcam and it will come with advanced features like hand tracking. Best of all, it works on Windows, Mac, and Linux!

Although Immersed doesn’t look quite as polished as Virtual Desktop, it’s a must watch and because it’s free, you can give it a try!

Can you work in virtual reality?

We spent many hours in VR doing the normal everyday things we used to do with a physical screen. While there was a period of options tweaking, it quickly became more and more natural to work in the VR space rather than the real world. The virtual screens provided by Quest looked very good, albeit not as sharp as they are in real life. However, this is offset by its large virtual size and, in the case of Immersed, by the ability to produce multiple virtual screens.

Writers who have to look at the keyboard to type will of course struggle, but if you can use the keyboard and mouse without having to see them and have a comfortable enough headset, a virtual desktop can be a great place to work! Learn about the best virtual screen applications to make the most of high-resolution screens.

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