Disclosure: The companies mentioned are clients of the author.
I have two unique monitors in my home office developed for the financial market, a 43-in. square monitor and a 49-in. panoramic monitor — both from Dell. Though they could also be used in healthcare and call centers, they were designed for the financial industry, which is famous for analysts and traders who run multiple PCs and multiple monitors. (My 42-in. screen was designed to replace four 17-in. monitors placed in a grid, while my 49-in. display replaces two side-by-side 27-in. monitors.
But moving either of these big monitors from work to home or, even worse, moving multiple monitors is problematic — both in terms of transportation and a lack of space in homes and apartments. While some high-performing employees already have a full setup at home, many don’t have the space for such setups. And we still don’t know whether companies may need to shut down again after going back to work.
That’s why I expect the combined need for ever more screen real estate and the need to support flexible work locations will drive us rapidly to high-resolution head-mounted displays.
Let’s walk through that this week.
My early view of the future
Just short of two decades ago, when execs were still talking to me (long story), Sony loaned me a head-mounted display (an older version of this) it was marketing to doctors for telemedicine. The list price was over $20,000, and it had a very high resolution for the time (it was barely HD). You could vary the occlusion to see through it, which was crucial because otherwise you’d feel isolated and blind. You could also see your hands and the keyboard when typing, but that made text harder to read. I did have fun with it: a stewardess once asked whether I worked for the CIA (I didn’t) and I had a meeting next to a vast Lan Party, and the folks competing went crazy for the thing.
Much of the device’s technology was in a separate box that you had to carry along with your laptop, and it had decent battery life. It would last longer than you’d likely be willing to use it.
Now VR headsets initially showed promise, but those building them started from the wrong end of the market. Sony was right, the first products should be focused on doing the job regardless of the cost, and then you reduce costs so they become affordable. That way, people who want the products are just waiting for them to become affordable. But the market started at the other end and built cheap crap — burning the majority of early adopters and creating a significant problem with growing this market. That problem: a critical mass of influencers have now concluded this technology is bad.
The best VR headset in the market right now is the HP Reverb G2. It offers high resolution, four cameras, high-quality head-mounted speakers, a comfortable head mount, and it’s relatively affordable at $599. With the right software, the cameras could blend in views of your hands and a keyboard, and the high-resolution screens make the images comfortable to use for a long time. You could also use the cameras to blend in the world around you so you can place virtual monitors anyplace you want and, with the right software, fix them permanently in your real workspace.
While this sounds like more of an AR than a VR implementation, the issue with AR is again occlusion; the virtual monitors are semi-transparent and hard on your eyes. But with enough power and the right software, you can blend the real images and the monitors into something that looks more like your office would with a real monitor. And while the headset is bulky, it is much more portable and lighter than multiple monitors or one of the giant monitors I use.
This benefit makes it an ideal starting point for a virtual multiple-monitor solution. With the right software (which doesn’t exist yet), it could be ideal for the financial market during the ongoing pandemic.
The financial industry, particularly analysts and traders, need multiple monitors to get their jobs done. Yet in the New Normal world of COVID-19 and working from home, moving monitors from location to location is not only painfully inconvenient, but many living spaces simply don’t have the physical room for them.
HP just released an interesting variant of its Reverb G2, the Omnicept version. It adds several sensors (for eye, heart, and face tracking), making it far more interesting in terms of using it for virtual meetings and monitoring employee health. Traders often have stress-related health problems, particularly heart problems.
It could be the basis for the ideal work-from-home hardware productivity tool for traders. Keep an eye, augmented or otherwise, on this space.
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