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A study reveals that working in virtual reality is less productive and more stressful

A man wearing a VR headset works in an office using motion tracking controllers.

Photo: Gorodenkoff (Shutterstock)

All the wealthy Zuckerbergs and like-minded tech bros in the world are convinced that the future is all of us who live, love and work in a “metaverse” of virtual reality. But findings from a new study suggest that working in virtual reality will not actually increase a worker’s productivity, comfort or well-being. Quite the opposite, in fact.

As spotted by Gamer on PC, an experiment was conducted by a research team from Coburg University in Germany. The folks got together 16 people, 10 men and 6 women, and had them work for a week in virtual reality using basic desktop setups and Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets. The results of this week-long study were later published in an article titled “Quantify the effects of working in virtual reality for a week.” Very catchy!

The week-long study suggests that working in virtual reality appears to reduce productivity and may also cause migraines.

Participants worked for seven days in VR, with 45-minute lunch breaks, and were asked several times throughout the day to rate their VR experience against working in a normal, real office on 10 statistics , including perceived productivity, frustration, well-being, and anxiety. Participants were also asked specific questions related to virtual reality, such as if they felt sick or if their eyes were starting to hurt. The research team also monitored their heartbeats and typing speed.

It turns out that study participants felt like they had more work to do than in a normal office and felt more anxious and stressed when trying to do their jobs in virtual reality. This resulted in a 14% drop in self-proclaimed productivity, with “frustration” increasing by more than 40% from baseline. All of this contributed to an overall decrease in mental well-being. And as you’d expect, participants suffered from increased eye strain, eyestrain, nausea, and migraines due to time spent in virtual reality.

Two people had to drop out of the study due to frequent migraines and high levels of frustration, nausea and disorientation before the end of the first day of the study.

Read more: The metaverse is already there for the cows and it’s very sad

To be clear, this is just one study in a field that is still quite young. In fact, one of the main purposes of its realization was to provide data on which future researchers could rely to further their research on the subject.

Some might be inclined to blame the negative results on the hardware/software used in the study – which included Chrome Remote Desktop and the low-budget VR headsets out of the box – but the paper explains that the researchers deliberately used the technology average because it is closer to your average desktop experience. And look, if the future is the metaverseit should work for everyone with every budget, not just the affluent who can afford $3,000 PCVR setups.

But yeah, overall that’s not good news for the Zuck. In conclusion, here is the research team’s conclusion from the article:

Overall, this study helps lay the groundwork for further research, highlighting current gaps and identifying opportunities for improving the VR work experience. We hope that this work will stimulate further research on longer-term productive work in situ in virtual reality.

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