I usually keep my Meta Quest 2 headset right next to me on my desk and I use it from everything from mindfulness, to productivity to communicating with others. The problem is despite all the investment Meta and Mark Zuckerberg have made into the metaverse it can be difficult knowing where to start.
I'm going to be running through some of the top productivity and creative apps on Meta's platform.
How I Use The Quest 2
My Quest sits next to me on my desk and I'll usually charge it right next to my laptop. The headset is tetherless, meaning it doesn't have any wires attached, and comes with two controllers. When you hop into an app you can set a play boundary for roomscale VR or you can stay seated which is what I usually do if I'm working from my desk.
During the day I'll jump into it to access apps, test some new software, collaborate with colleagues or grab some downtime by playing a game or sport in VR if I'm a bit bored. During the pandemic I even attended a few conferences which were held in VR shared spaces like Alt-Space. Before we get into the specific apps I use and why let's take a look at what the Quest 2 is like when you put it on.
After you have put on the headset and set your boundary you'll find yourself in your home area which you can customise to be anything you like from a hotel to a ski lodge style building. It's from here that you can access the main menu and search the app library of free and paid apps. So let's look at some of the apps that I use when I pick up my VR headset.
Mind Mapping and Whiteboarding
I'm a huge fan of mind-mapping and I'll be creating some content very soon on how to mindmap effectively for learning and for work. While creating mind maps on paper, on desktop or on iOS apps is great adding an extra few dimensions with virtual reality helps to bring your mind maps to life and that's exactly what Noda sets out to do. The app lets you mind map in the metaverse and share your work with others to collaborate. Plot out ideas, link them together, and watch your map get more and more complex as others add to it and suggest things. The app is free with paid upgrades for some additional features. On desktop I use Miro quite a bit for whiteboarding and planning out product designs and the Miro team have recently released a version of their popular whiteboarding app in VR. At the moment the Miro VR app is just a 2D window within VR and isn't really a true immersive experience. Given how you can easily scale windows in VR it means your field of vision can take in way more detail on the Miro whiteboards than on desktop which requires quite a bit of zooming.
A VR app that I use fairly regularly is Virtual Desktop. It's a paid app and cost £14.99 or around $20. Virtual Desktop enables you to connect wirelessly to your computer to watch movies, browse the web and play games on a giant virtual screen in a VR space. This is pretty cool as one of the main limitations of virtual reality is the lack of content and so being able to pull useful things into VR from your computer is really helpful. The large workspace and ability to quickly jump between different connected computers if like me you love working across multiple screens. It's also great for reducing distractions as you are lazer focused on your desktop workspace. The app itself is super stable and doesn't take up much space on your quest and even though Meta has it's own way to connect to your computer using their Airlink system Virtual Desktop is a bit more flexible and reliable in my experience. Now I'm mainly focusing on the Meta store and the Quest but for those with a PC and Steam there is a great app called XSOverlay which allows you to create independent overlays of a monitor, window, or separate application, in any virtual space. A quick example of this would be bring in Spotify and strapping it to the back of your virtual hand in a VR environment. While the app is fairly early in development these kind of solutions will likely help bring some consistency as you journey between apps and experiences in the metaverse.
I'll regularly take breaks in my day to do some meditation and be mindful and recently I've been using virtual reality more and more at my desk for the simple reason that it blocks out most of your other senses allowing you to focus on your breath. I've talked about the power of mindfulness before for boosting your learning and productivity and I'm a power user of apps like calm.
In VR there are some great apps which I'll hop into including Maloka which is a very cute, gamified relaxation experience which puts you into your own CGI island environment along with a spirit guide and takes you on a journey of meditation, sound bathes and relaxing audio. The app is free with some upsells and is a fun way to gamify your mindfulness.
If you are after an app that helps you to learn and relax at the same time Ocean rift was one of the first VR experiences I tried and it's a great example of the power that VR has to transport people into inaccessible locations. Ocean rift sends you on an aquatic safari where you'll learn about the ocean and its inhabitants in a relaxing VR experience. The app costs £7.99 or $9.99 and being underwater in VR is a really cool experience that I'd recommend everyone tries.
TRIPP is another great meditation experience to check out. The app takes you on a psychedelic trip with narrated meditation, breathing exercises and offers the ability to create your own trip from the selection of visuals and audio on offer. The app is free to trial with in-app purchases.
Being able to collaborate with team members is great, but actually being able to productively work on design projects is even better. I'll regularly hop into some creative and collaborative apps to boost my creativity and also solve design problems in a shared virtual space. One app I've been using pretty regularly recently is ShapesXR which allows you to create immersive 3D storyboards to show your off ideas in 3D and easily invite team members to iterate and design together in real-time. Designers can manipulate simple shapes at scale, change materials, research user flows, and pitch scenes in motion with a simple to use staging system and you can then share your designs to other tools like Unity or via web. The app is free with some in-app upsells.
Another great creative app that I'll hop into fairly regularly is Tilt Brush which allows you to design and sketch out anything in VR and share with others. I'll usually do this if I have some downtime as it's pretty relaxing and my drawing isn't that great even in VR but it's a fantastic tool and gives you a full 3D canvas to design on and test your creativity. Tilt Brush is owned by Google and costs $14.99 or $19.99. A final app I tend to jump in to more for creative relaxation and because the physics are very cool is Vermillion. Vermillion gives you an easel and full pain kit which in the real world would be very expensive and immerses you in a painters studio where you can practise your brush strokes and relax painting seated, standing, or even lying down. You can use the app's floating web browser to learn to paint alongside your favorite artists on YouTube, or project reference photos on the canvas. Vermillion features realistic wet-on-wet color mixing, undo, layers, and a wide range of simulated brushes and you can share your masterpiece with friends once finished.
Collaboration In VR
With zoom burnout a huge problem for remote teams and anyone working from home being able to pop on a headset at my desk and jump into a team meeting where I can see other people and interact in the metaverse is really fun and much less tiring than staring at a tiny camera on my mac. If I'm speaking in VR at an event or a team meeting there are a bunch of great options out there. One of my favourites is Spatial which allows you to select an avatar and set up a collaborative meeting room. The app is free with some in app purchases and works really well as a communication tool for small or large groups in VR. The app allows you to import items to the shared space and discuss things and visualise ideas. Your avatar talks, moves, and interacts and mirrors in-person collaborative sessions. Spatial also allows people to join via computer if you have some folks who don't have access to a headset too.
Another popular tool is Horizons Workspace which is still in Beta and does a similar job, bringing people into a shared environment and cultivating team work with that feeling of in-person connection while working remotely. These platforms also avoid people getting left out as everyone can be seen in the 3D space and involved in the conversation.
Experiences and Learning
While a lot of the previous apps have used computer generated images to immerse you into the metaverse one of my main go tos and the main way that I use virtual reality is for viewing real world video. Whether it's 360 or just 2D scaled up there are a tonne of great experiences to jump into. Some of my favourites come from National Geographic and the BBC who have some amazing immersive journeys through nature and space. I'd also give a shout out to the YouTube VR app itself which is great for watching both 2D and 360 video in a headset at your desk without interruptions and on a huge field of view.
There are also some really promising learning apps on the meta store. For those of you studying medicine 3D Organon is a great VR anatomy application which allows you to walk around a full 3D human body and focus down on specific systems in a more accessible way than traditional cadaveric anatomy teaching. Apps like Mondly allow you to learn a new language in virtual reality for just £7.99 or $10 and I'm a huge fan of TribeXR which I'll dive into to practise my DJing skills at the end of the day as it provides immersive tutorials and weekly masterclasses on how to DJ and play music from £22.99 or $24.99.
There are loads of great apps for productivity and learning and collaboration and more in the metaverse and the selection and quality of experiences is getting better and better all the time and I've not even touched on all the games and sports experiences you can play if you need a bit of downtime.