In this project, we investigated the feasibility of replacing or extending physical monitors with virtual monitors, in the context of productivity work. We started from the premise that while large, multi-mon physical setups are proven to be effective while conducting this type of work, they require a lot of space to be set up, are not much portable, and not flexible to the content being presented. Furthermore, prices start to add up considerably as you get screens with a larger footprint.
We investigated how the current state of the art of AR head-worn displays support the use of virtual monitors for real-world work. The prototype we created enabled us to display output from a full version of Windows 10 on a Microsoft HoloLens 2. By doing so, we could compare the usage of setups of purely Physical and purely Virtual monitors, and also a combination of both, which we called Hybrid. The videos below show both Virtual and Hybrid demonstrations.
We conducted a user study and found some interesting results. All conditions were feasible, with participants completing the tasks and with similar scores on tasks. They also expressed they could focus on their work and felt that they delivered a quality result under all conditions. These results indicate that virtual monitors can be used right now using current technology, at least for small periods of time. Virtual took a bit longer than Physical, however. Consider Virtual also required more head movement (amplitude and total movement), these results point out to primarily to the necessity of improving resolution and field of view of devices – to reduce the size of monitors and improve the peripheral view of side-by-side content.
Interestingly, we found Hybrid to be a middle ground between both, which behaves more closely to Virtual when more interaction is required on side monitors, and more closely to Physical when it is restricted to glanceable behavior, or when the interaction takes place in the physical center monitor. This points out that, with current technology, it seems to be more beneficial to extend physical monitors than to replace them with purely virtual ones.
Do we still need physical monitors? An evaluation of the usability of AR virtual monitors for productivity work Inproceedings Forthcoming
2021 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces (VR), IEEE, Forthcoming.