News: Microsoft Windows Gets the Virtual Reality Treatment with Envelop VR

Microsoft Windows Gets the Virtual Reality Treatment with Envelop VR

Most of us work with a single monitor, but even with one or two extras, they still offer a rather confined workspace. Virtual reality, however, doesn't have such boundaries. As a result, VR headsets can work as excellent productivity tools. Windows can't just adapt on its own, however, so Envelop VR stepped in and created a new working environment to allow the desktop to expand beyond its traditional, rectangular bounds.

You currently need a Windows PC with an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive to use it, but if you meet those requirements, you can try this new kind of workspace right now. Envelop VR has a beta available to download for free, either directly or through Steam, and you can just launch it to start working.

As you'll see in the video above, you can place your working windows just about anywhere. You can look around you to see them all, but you can also rotate everything with a mouse input so you're not spinning around all day while working.

You might wonder how you can use a mouse and keyboard effectively, but they've thought of that, too. If your computer has a webcam connected, you can point it at the mouse and keyboard and use Envelop VR to identify their location in the video feed. Envelop VR will then include that portion of the webcam's video so you can actually see your mouse and keyboard while working.

They keyboard and hands you see at the bottom of this screenshot are from a live webcam feed pointing at the user's peripherals. Image via EnvelopVR

The software works quite well. If there's any downside to using Envelop VR, it's the lower resolution you get with today's virtual reality headsets. They do just fine for images, but when it comes to reading text you might struggle a bit depending on where the window is placed and how big the characters are on screen. Of course, this won't cause much of a problem in the near future as headset resolutions improve.

Envelop VR also integrates with the web, and you'll see it most with shopping right now. As shown in the video above, you'll see a product page for a lawn chair. Instead of just looking at a few photos, you can bring up a 3D model of the chair and look at it in any way you want. Envelop VR takes this further with cars. Outside of shopping, 3D characters or actual video recordings can pop out and interact with you outside of the current window.

There aren't many sites that support virtual reality features like this, but they're coming. The new workspace paradigm Envelop VR wants to create currently takes a transitional approach, untethering you from your limited, rectangular workspace and offering something more open and freeing. But you're still interacting with a traditional, desktop computing environment—just in a new and better way.

As more and more people adopt this technology, however, we'll likely see a shift in focus around user experience. We won't need to trap content in windows as much, and software like Envelop VR will have the opportunity to do even more. But for now, it's still a pretty killer software upgrade you don't even have to pay for.

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Cover image by Envelop VR

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