Published on August 17th, 2020 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Researchers bring Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel into VR
I’m sure back in the day when presenters started showing spreadsheets in digital and interactive formats there was some pushback from those who wanted their statistics only in analog paper. Expect pushback now that this content is headed into the world of XR. Jeremy Horwitz has a post at VentureBeat about how files from spreadsheet programs like MS Excel and Google Sheets are being brought into XR with new levels of interactivity and connectivity with other data and content. There is no doubt that as users get more accustomed to XR spreadsheets there will be many new creative and valuable ways to see and understand information. How is that not a win?
If your dreams occasionally involve spreadsheets that extend endlessly in all directions, good news: Researchers have developed a virtual reality spreadsheet interface that could expand Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel files from flat screens into 3D spaces. Rather than being nightmare-inducing, it could actually make spreadsheet apps more usable than before.
While traditional spreadsheets have been limited by the boundaries of 2D windows and displays, the research team envisions VR opening up adjacent 2D workspaces for related content, then using 3D for everything from floating menus to cell selection and repositioning. In one example, a VR headset mirrors the view of one spreadsheet page displayed on a physical tablet, while two virtual sheets sit to the left and right, permitting drag-and-drop access to their cells, as an overview hovers above.
Alternatively, tablet-surrounding areas could display useful reference materials, expanded views of formulas, or the full collection of a spreadsheet’s pages displayed as floating previews. Another possibility is a single spreadsheet page that stretches far further than the 30-degree diagonal field of view occupied by a typical tablet on a desk, utilizing more of the ~110-degree fields of view supported by VR headsets.
Fans of the film Minority Report and portrayals of similarly holographic future 3D interfaces will appreciate the team’s use of a floating pie menu — complete with a drop shadow on the spreadsheet — for selecting features and functions, as well as spherical rather than flat buttons and other visual elements that appear to leap off the flat pages. The 3D spreadsheet workspace could also be extended with floating desktop objects, such as a virtual trash can, to make disposing of unwanted content more intuitive.