Working in VR is Easier When You Can Bring Your Phone 2021


Key Takeaways

The productivity app Immersed now lets you use your smartphone in virtual reality.I spent a glorious hour playing with my iPhone while hooked up to the Oculus Quest 2.There are a limited selection of apps available that make working in VR possible. Yagi Studio / Getty Images

You can now bring your smartphone with you into virtual reality. 

The productivity app Immersed is adding support for the iPhone and iPad so you can see those devices in VR. It's part of a growing movement to make VR more than just a platform for games. 

"In the future, your apps may be able to integrate with VR, and you could access them as part of the experience," Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review, said in an email interview. "It's also useful if you need to ensure you can receive messages, calls, or important notifications while using VR. And I think it's a way to make VR actually accessed by smartphone more user-friendly."

Get Connected

To use your phone in Immersed, you need to download the Immersed iOS app from the App Store. Immersed says it will release the Android version of the app soon, and there's a waiting list available. 

The app streams your iPhone or iPad's screen over the same local Wi-Fi network your headset is connected to. Currently, the software doesn't track the location of your handheld, but you can dock your phone to make sure it's in the real and virtual world. The company says it plans to eventually add tracking to the phone so you will know its location in virtual space. 

I spent a glorious hour playing with my iPhone while hooked up to the Oculus Quest 2. It was incredibly fun seeing my phone and all its data instantly available while in virtual reality, as was seeing notifications on my phone without taking the headset off. Having my iPhone in VR also could be handy for scrolling through notes or any other information I need to get to quickly. 

But the new phone feature from Immersed is more a technology demonstration at this point. It's a signpost that VR is coming to take over our lives in ways we can't even imagine yet. Some people already are working from virtual spaces, and this trend only will continue as the hardware and software get better. Being able to immerse yourself in VR while also being able to manipulate everyday objects will be vital to making the experience useful.

VR Apps for Work

For now, there is a limited selection of apps available that make working in VR possible. The Spatial app lets you organize your work and integrates with desktop productivity apps like Microsoft Office. You can resize and pin your apps and windows to help you focus, and it has a collaboration feature that enables you to bring your team into your workspace, sharing the same view of multiple applications at once.

There's also Immersed, which lets you access multiple computer screens at once. With a monthly subscription, you can collaborate with others in VR in virtual scenes ranging from a ski chalet to a spaceship.

Immersed's Virtual Desktop Lets You Do Real Work in VR

Facebook is working on the Infinite Office app, which will allow users to work across multiple customizable screens built on top of the Oculus Browser. You'll be able to see live feeds from the onboard cameras so that they can integrate the VR world with their own home.

Perhaps most exciting, Facebook announced a partnership with accessory maker Logitech that will allow certain keyboards to be recognized, tracked, and rendered inside the headset, so users can quickly type while working inside the Quest.

The app "will integrate with your real environment and be portable and persistent, so you can easily pick things up right where you left off," Facebook wrote in a blog post. "To enhance focus and flexibility, you can even toggle between a fully immersive experience and a mix of virtual displays with Passthrough for a greater awareness of your surroundings."