The Ultimate Remote Work Experience: I Wore the Varjo Headset For An Entire Workday
What would it be like to incorporate advanced mixed reality technology into daily office work life? Jonathan Hawes from RAVE Computer put this idea to test and wore the Varjo mixed reality headset for an entire remote workday. Keep reading to find out what he discovered!
The world of VR/AR/XR was new to me until just a few years ago. Previously, I spent much of my tech life building computers or engineering different types of antennas for sending HF communications. It wasn’t until my work with the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) and the U.S. Army Synthetic Training Environment (STE) that I began to realize how far my universe could expand through the exploration of peripherals/head mounted displays (HMDs). From enhanced medical training to seeing the next generation of JTAC simulators (‘Joint Terminal Attack Controller’ to the uninitiated), I quickly discovered that integrated use of XR technology can help keep our women and men properly prepared to defend against all enemies. Fast forward to my current role as Director of Emerging Opportunities with RAVE, which takes my newfound love for next generation technology and gives it purpose and direction. I found myself wondering recently, How many tasks can I accomplish effectively while using a mixed reality headset?
The challenge: The idea seemed simple enough, and as a full-time remote worker with a dedicated home office, the environment seemed ripe for a small research project. Utilizing a home office provided an additional twist in my research that many who work remotely may also encounter which I affectionately refer to as “family aggro”. To those unfamiliar, aggro is the brilliant creation that game designers use (typically via NPCs) to distract the main character from achieving their mission, and always at the most inopportune moment. The most famous example of this could very well be “BBC Dad”. For me, family aggro flairs when I have an important client meeting starting in 30 seconds and my 15 month old daughter decides to sing her own personal rendition of the National Anthem (while adorable, also sounds surprisingly like an angry animal hellbent on the destruction of a small planet). We all have hilarious family aggro stories, and I was curious how wearing an XR headset all day would impact my family aggro.
The premise was simple, could I spend my time behind a computer for a day behind a set of goggles and be productive? On a typical day I find myself switching between at least three physical computers and another 4-6 virtual machines depending on the project. My highest used applications: Teams, ContextCapture, Slack, and more recently Unreal Engine 5. My weapon of choice for this mission was Varjo’s XR-3. An incredible piece of equipment, the XR-3 allowed me to easily switch from a fully immersive desktop environment to a mixed reality workspace. This versatility allowed me to hold in-person conversations and deal with family aggro (although I looked like a bad cosplay version of Sam Fisher from Splinter Cell). Need a visual? Here I am wearing Varjo’s XR-3 Focal Edition during I/ITSEC.
The look and feel of the workday experience with the XR-3
First and foremost, the Varjo XR-3 felt great to wear. The headset offers a great support from both the top and rear counter-balance adjustment nobs, and I found myself adjusting the headset more and more as my eyes adjusted to this dynamic change of environment.
Initially, I struggled with syncing their physical surroundings with the virtual environment. Finding things in the physical world took a bit longer than natural eyesight. However, after a few minutes I was able to navigate easily, largely due to the headset automatically shifting to the pass-through cameras when I looked down beyond a certain point, which allowed me to see what I was physically doing. Once I got used to it, this turned out to be one of my favorite functions of the XR-3.
The Varjo Base application made multitasking a breeze: Being able to scale and control my screen through Varjo Base made arranging windows, and even showing my son what I was working on a snap because I was able to see what was happening in the physical world through the app.
Working with different platforms
Using applications such as Teams and Slack didn’t cause many issues, but I did find my eyes straining slightly by the end of the day when I would read or type for an extended period.
I didn’t notice any real advantages or disadvantages to this new work style when using ContextCapture, but if I was going one way or the other, I’d lean more towards it being an advantage, as the increased screen real-estate, even virtual, offered an unprecedented look at the models I was generating.
I fell in love all over again with the XR-3 after I baked the textures on the models and loaded them into UE5. I was able to switch seamlessly between my developer workspace and being surrounded by the model I had just generated – all without having to get up from my desk, log into someone else’s computer (or the cloud as some call it) or shut down other programs in the background.
This beautiful and seamless workflow is thanks to RAVE’s new RenderBEAST XL-T, our newest workstation innovation. The RenderBEAST XL-T configuration comes with a 12th Gen Core I9 CPU from Intel and a dedicated A5000 from NVIDIA acting as my interface system. In this same form factor, there’s also a 32c Threadripper working alongside four RTX A5000 GPU’s allowing me to process 3D data in ContextCapture across multiple engines while simultaneously working on turning another model into a fully immersive 3D experience within Unity or UE5. This tower IS a BEAST!
Being able to render and manipulate the different facets of these environments without an immense amount of fatigue or eye strain was possible thanks to the Varjo XR-3’s high-resolution display with over 70ppd and an extensive 115-degree field of view. This made maneuvering my workspace easy.
The experiment was not completely avoid of a few technical hiccups, however. I had to restart Varjo Base a couple times and dealt with one system crash, but I was also running several pre-release versions of software and drivers so I can’t attribute that to Varjo’s offerings, but wanted to be transparent on my experience.
Overall, I found the experience….interesting. For certain applications and professions, I can see the idea of an immersive workday attractive. If by chance those professions have requirements for a user-friendly, high resolution, and well-built HMD that offers both virtual reality and mixed reality, then Varjo’s lineup deserves serious consideration. For close up reading, the XR-3 Focal Edition provides enhanced clarity for tiny print and illustrations 12” to 31” from the headset. The Focal Edition is also TAA-compliant if you’re in the defense industry. Of course, the quality of your HMD doesn’t matter if you don’t have powerful enough compute to support it, and the RenderBEAST line offers enough horsepower to drive your creative vehicle to the limits.
While the purpose of this experiment wasn’t to highlight the XR-3, it made sense to use the best HMD possible. RAVE and Varjo being #BetterTogether isn’t just a marketing slogan. RAVE was just honored as Varjo’s North American Partner of the Year for the second year in a row. Our teams work closely together on use cases and custom projects dedicated to our customer’s success. I can honestly share that combining Varjo’s HMD with RAVE’s RenderBEAST truly delivers a performance that’s worth consideration for your future projects and missions.