Our previous work has shown that virtual monitors can effectively display information through a head-worn display when a physical monitor is unavailable or provides insufficient space. However, it also uncovered some common issues of these devices, such as low resolution and restricted field of view, that lead to larger monitors, more head movement, and reduced peripheral view. These results were obtained on augmented reality, using commercially available HWDs.
In this work, we evaluated a novel implementation of virtual monitors that combines high-resolution virtual reality hardware with custom-made software that minimizes graphic transformations. Our aim is not only to validate the previous study but to understand how we can give an extra step in the field by reducing previously detected problems. We further compared three real-world approaches for conducting productivity work through an ecologically valid study: Workstation, which has three conventional physical monitors; Laptop, which has a single physical monitor expanded with virtual desktops (provided by operating systems); and Virtual, which has three virtual monitors.
Our results confirm the previous findings that Workstation is still the golden standard in all metrics. But our new condition showed some interesting trade-offs. Virtual achieved better performance, and participants deemed it easier to use and more intuitive than the Laptop condition. This provides evidence of the advantages of quick glances over full content switches, even when the content organization and screen space are kept the same. It also elucidates other problems with the technology, with the most prominent problems with this prototype being related to comfort and ergonomics, indicating the need for careful hardware design.