What app do I need to use my desktop in VR?
The scene from the movie Minority Report in which Tom Cruise's character, John Anderton, is moving virtual screens around with his hands is imprinted in the minds of techies everywhere. How cool would it be to have a bunch of movable screens surrounding you? You'd be able to enlarge, shrink, and rotate to your heart's content...
Well, that coolness has arrived! Thanks to VR and some savvy developers, you can bring your desktop with you when you escape the real world. Sit in a penthouse and have a swanky LAN party with your pals, or surround yourself in windows as you work at solving crimes (or other equally important business) like Tom Cruise.
There are several apps available that let you take your desktop with you; we expect there to be a whole lot more in the future, but here are the ones we like most right now.
BigScreen lets you host a small-scale (you and three friends) LAN party from the penthouse of a skyscraper. Sit together — from the comfort of your own VR space — while you game against each other. No screen peeking!
Did one of your friends get ahold of a recently released movie? Watch it together on a theater-sized screen (you can make the screen any size you want, up to a certain enormous point) while you sit in a posh living room. Because of the nature of BigScreen, only one person needs to have the media on their computer, but keep in mind that when it comes to gaming, each person needs a copy of the game to play together.
Move around the penthouse, from the kitchen to the living room to the patio, to find a space you like, or sit together on a couch and watch the lights of the city twinkle below. Your friends appear as disembodied heads that project voices in 3D space.
If you want to experience a virtual LAN or posh meeting place for you and your friends, definitely check out this app. BigScreen is in beta development and is compatible with both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
Virtual Desktop essentially lets you live inside your PC. There are a ton of 360-degree desktop environments you can download for free thanks to Steam Workshop integration, and there are also paid desktops you can get from the developer. If you're a creative person, you can even design and implement your own 360-degree desktop environment. Sit under the sea, float around in space, or work from the top of the Empire State Building. Limitations here are based on what you can or cannot think up.
Virtual Desktop's UI is streamlined and very easy to use. Drag and drop most files and they'll begin to play immediately. You won't spend your time fooling around trying to get things to work.
You can use voice commands to launch games and other apps, and if you love listening to music, there's a built-in music visualizer — thanks to MilkDrop — that will melt your brain. Put on some Pink Floyd or Beatles and see what they were seeing when they wrote their music.
Make your screen as big or as small as you want, and curve it to an angle that's suitable for your vision. Text remains legible no matter how you orient your screen and if you have a multi-monitor setup, you'll be able to see each monitor within Virtual Desktop.
Use any video player you want to watch movies — the screen snaps up to where it's supposed to be. Watch 3D videos (side-by-side format) inside Virtual Desktop as though you have a 3D TV, and, of course, play all of your games on an enormous screen. Diablo 3 and Rocket League look fantastic; going back to a regular display will be tough.
SPACE is currently in beta development, but it's already looking great. It lets you open up to six windows (more in final release) within its 360-degree environment, and it lets you configure them in any way you want. There isn't any sort of virtual display limiting where your windows can go. You can have three or four text documents open behind you, and a couple videos in front of you. All you need to do is turn your head to change tasks. No matter the size and configuration of open windows, you'll be able to read text.
You can set any 360-degree picture as the background, so your options are basically limitless. If you're looking for a bit of relaxation after a hard day's work, going to full-screen mode within a browser takes you to theater mode. Sit back and relax while the video of your choice plays on the big screen.
For a virtual desktop experience geared toward productivity, check out SPACE. It's a free download from their website, and they were recently greenlit on Steam. SPACE is compatible with both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
Envelop is a relatively new app to the VR-desktop group, but it's certainly impressed quite a few people.
It works the same as other apps that allow you to see your desktop in a 360-degree virtual world, but also has camera support that lets you see your keyboard and hands. You can use the built-in camera on the Vive for a grainy picture that does the trick, or you can set up an entirely separate camera for use with an Oculus Rift.
You can have a ton of windows open within the virtual desktop, allowing you to easily multitask. Thanks to the camera integration, you don't have to guess where your keyboard is or lift the HMD to check hand placement.
Envelop is in the public beta phase, so expect bugs and hiccups while you use it. It is compatible with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
Do you plan on moving your desktop to virtual reality? Have you already moved on from the 2D plane? Which app are you using? Let us know in the comments section below!