Really Cool New VR App Wraps Your PC Desktop Around You

  • Kirk Hamilton

I’ve played a lot of VR games this week, but the best thing I’ve done in virtual reality wasn’t a game at all. It was just my computer desktop, blown up into immersive 3D.

Yesterday the 1.0 version of Virtual Desktop launched on Steam. Created by a developer named Guy Godin, Virtual Desktop has been around in various pre-release forms for a little while now, but yesterday marked its official commercial release. I hadn’t had a chance to try it back when I had an Oculus DK2 headset, though I’d seen people talking about how cool the idea was. Now that the retail Oculus Rift is available to the public (well, sort of), I’d been curious whether the finished app was as good as I’d heard it might be.

Turns out: Yep, it’s good. Virtual Desktop, which currently costs $14.99, is really neat. There’s definitely some room for improvement, but the app is already impressive enough to get me thinking of VR in a new light.

Here’s a demo video that does a pretty good job of showing how it works:

It works equally well with the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift, though so far I’ve only tested it with the Rift. You can launch it from directly within Steam, though my Steam copy came with a code I could redeem on the Oculus Store, which lets me access it from within Oculus Home. It was the first time I’ve done that with a Steam game, and it worked okay: The app got hung up the first couple of times I ran it from within Oculus Home, but ever since then it’s been smooth sailing.

Virtual Desktop actually reminds me of Oculus Home, which is a standalone operating system Oculus made for the Rift. It turns your PC monitor into a massive, adjustable floating screen and puts you in an immersive virtual space right in front of it. The difference between the two is that with Virtual Desktop, there aren’t any restrictions on what you can do with it. Anything you’d do on your PC, you can now do in VR.

I worked from inside Virtual Desktop for a couple of hours yesterday and was shocked by how easy it was. The screen curves around your field of vision, which greatly helps with readability of text—the Oculus Rift’s headset still has a “screen door” effect that’s really best thought of as a “magazine effect”—it feels like everything you’re looking at is printed on slightly gauzy magazine paper. The big, curved virtual desktop helped me easily read on-screen text, and before long I was chatting in work Slack, tweeting, and otherwise doing regular internet stuff.

Virtual Desktop is still lacking a couple of features that could elevate it further: In particular, you’re restricted to the number of monitors you physically have hooked up to your PC, so you can’t just magically conjure the 5-monitor setup of your dreams. Hopefully that’s coming in a future update. And while the Rift’s resolution is actually pretty workable, this whole thing will be much more exciting when VR technology is able to display extremely crisp, high-res images.

All the same, Virtual Desktop is much cooler than I was expecting it to be, and in a lot of ways feels indicative of the sort of “killer app” that could really sell people on VR—more so than most of the video games I’ve played, in fact. If you have (or are waiting for) a Vive or a Rift, I definitely recommend checking it out. (source)

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