As part of the course CS 491 - Virtual and Augmented Reality, held by professor Johnson at UIC, I was asked to choose two projects, made by other students in the class, that I most liked and review them.
Group 2 proposed an innovative approach to office spaces. The overall impression is very modern and technological, with clean furniture and plenty of room to move around.
The room can be divided into two functional areas. Right next to the entrance we found the area more related to actual work usage. There is a huge whiteboard which covers almost all the wall and represents a great tool both for brainstorming as well as for presentations. Surprisingly, next to the whiteboard there is a security camera, whose aim is not clear and seem sort of pointless.
In front of the whiteboard three double-sided desks form the backbone of the operating area. Each desk features a wheeled office chair and a desktop computer with a large monitor, mouse and keyboard. Each desk is nice by its own right, but it is rather small, especially if compared to the abundant size of the room. Putting the computer case on top of the desk rather than below it has not helped. Moreover, the desks are separated by desk walls that isolates each worker in his own space. This approach is a bit old-fashioned and does not encourage discussion within the team, which is very praised nowadays.
Beyond the desks the “operating” area is ended and we find two small round tables with very modern design chairs. Most likely thought to be a recreational / lunch area, the tables look more like they belong to the garden of a Paris cafè rather than an office. Having said this, they do not clash too bad, and the idea of having a couple of tables where to eat a fast lunch or just enjoy a small snack definitely makes sense in a modern office.
Finally, at the end of the room there is a more proper recreational area, with a big sofa and a coffee table. The coffee table, together with some shelves on the side, hold a mixture of boxed food and useless stuff that are true of any small-company office. The recreational area also features a large flat screen television, which fits the office, but one must beg the question why put the TV and not just keep the multi-screen installation that was already there from the classroom.
This then, it is not the perfect office, but what won my heart about it is the astonishing attention to detail. Every item is carefully reproduced in detail to give the user a more-realistic-than-ever experience.
One of the most incredible piece is the clock. With a simple and clean design, the hands move to tell the real time.
Overall this project really impressed me for its consistency in the style and the level of details. There can be improvements, especially for what concerns the layout of the space, but it remains one of the best project I have witnessed.
Group 12 proposed a very personal interpretation of office. The room, which plays around yellow gray and purple tones, is strongly focused on interaction and recreation.
As soon as we enter the room we find a full car simulator that really looks out of place, and in fact takes up most of the corridor the leads to the main space, but is nonetheless one of the coolest feature I may dream of in my ideal office.
Beyond the simulator, where the space opens, there is a nice kitchenette that continues the purple theme set by the simulator. Simple but fair in its own right, it hosts the standard set of tools, mugs and cutlery necessary to enjoy a nice break.
Right in front of the kitchenette there is a sort of meeting area made up of multiple design chairs hosted around a coffee table. The singular design of the chairs makes for a unique impression, where the chairs somehow appear to be persons themselves who are discussing in secrecy around the table. Like it or not, it definitely feels different from the boring meeting rooms of the classical workspaces.
Directly across the room, we find two desks, each one featuring a MAC desktop and an iPad, that represent the only “operative” stations of the office. Although very nice by themselves, it is a bit surprising to find only two working stations in an office of this size. The number appears even more surprising if we look at the remaining third of the room, where all the space is taken by a huge sofa looking towards a big TV and two whiteboards.
This is then, a peculiar room. Realistically, rather than thinking of it as an office on its own, it would work better as the recreation room of a bigger workplace.
Having said all of this, the main reason why I choose this project in my top 2s is the courage of the designer. Group 12 really went against all the rules and created a new kind of space, with improbable colors, weird looking chairs and a car simulator. Such an idea would be unfeasible and mad in the real world, but perfectly shows the potentiality of Virtual Reality. There is no need to recreate reality, the one we have is already good enough, but VR allows us to break the rules, both physical and social, and create something new and impossible.
Oct. 6th, 2017
Note: This article was written as an homework for course CS 491 – Virtual and Augmented Reality, held by professor Johnson at UIC.