Virtues of Virtual Windows
Virtual windows may sound like playthings for the rich and famous, or decorations for high-end corporate offices, but they do have some practical uses. We want, and perhaps even need, access to a view of the outside world, and we can't always get the real thing. Research show that people even seem to line their offices with more nature-related decorations to compensate when they lack a real view of the outdoors [source: Farley].
Aside from ventilation and a clue as to the time and weather outside, windows furnish us with light, color and distraction from the static and sometimes boring everyday indoor view. Windows can create energy problems and keep architects and designers from making the most efficient use of space, but being without them often causes a negative psychological response in a building's human occupants, including feelings of tension, isolation and depression [source: Farley]. This can be especially true in places like hospitals, schools and offices, where people tend to be stuck in one spot for long periods of time.
Access to windows, particularly with visible nature scenery, has a positive impact on work-related stress and employee satisfaction. It has also been demonstrated that window views of trees can aid in surgical recovery times and reduce the amount of painkillers taken by patients [sources: Farley, Ijsselsteijn]. And in one study, lack of windows in an intensive care unit resulted in more than double the number of cases of postoperative delirium, as well as a higher incidence of depression, compared to patients in windowed rooms [source: Farley].
More research needs to be done to determine if these findings hold equally true for the virtual variety of window, but there's already movement in that direction. The Open Window project mentioned earlier involved projecting still and moving artwork, nature scenes and images of personal interest onto the walls of the rooms of patients undergoing stem cell transplants -- a procedure that requires weeks of isolation for the patient in a sterile, windowless room. The experiment resulted in reduced anxiety and depression for patients participating in the project, compared with those without Open Window. Patients stated that the treatment experience was better than they expected it to be and that the "windows" provided distraction and feelings of connection to the outside world. [sources: Hegarty, McCabe].
Lots of medical and other offices are already adopting the still-image virtual windows to improve the view. With enough evidence of benefit, the moving variety might not be far behind.
Displays and other computing equipment are also becoming cheaper and cheaper, so smaller and less expensive virtual windows fit for a cubicle might be in our future. Who doesn't want to pretend their office is underwater?
Author's Note: How Virtual Windows Work
This sounds really cool to me, especially given that I lost my window-side cubicle in an office move recently. And a virtual window or two would have been especially helpful when I worked in a windowless basement office years ago. A Mars landscape, complete with Curiosity wheeling around, would be fun, as would any number of earthly and otherworldly settings. I'd probably change them frequently while looking for a distraction from my normal computer monitor and my cloth-covered cubicle walls. I doubt my office will shell out the big bucks for something this novel, but, smaller, cheaper versions are bound to come out. Until then, I'll have to settle for fun desktop wallpaper landscapes. Or walking to the actual window.
- Davies, Chris. "Winscape virtual windows are cheaper than relocating." Slashgear. April 15, 2010. (March 11, 2014) http://www.slashgear.com/winscape-virtual-windows-are-cheaper-than-relocating-video-1581806/
- Dillow, Clay. "Tired of Looking at the Yard? Turn Two HDTVs into a Magic Window on the World." Popular Science. April 15, 2010. (March 11, 2014) http://www.popsci.com/diy/article/2010-04/winscape-makes-world-outside-your-window-whatever-you-want-it-be
- Fallon, Sean. "SkyV Skylights Bring HD Virtual Nature Into Your Windowless World." Gizmodo. November 3, 2008. (March 12, 2014) http://gizmodo.com/5074971/skyv-skylights-bring-hd-virtual-nature-into-your-windowless-world
- Farley, K. M. and J. A. Veitch. "A Room With A View: A Review of the Effects of Windows on Work and Well-Being." National Research Council Canada. August 2001. (March 15, 2014) http://nparc.cisti-icist.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/npsi/ctrl?action=shwart&index=an&req=20378971&lang=en
- Fingas, Jon. "Winscape Virtual Window Makes the Leap to Kinect in 4K-capable, 6-screen glory (video)." Engadget. July 10, 2012. (March 17, 2014) http://www.engadget.com/2012/07/10/winscape-virtual-window-makes-the-leap-to-kinect/
- Gruber, Ben. "Virtual Windows Take You Where You Want to Go." Reuters. January 19, 2011. (March 17, 2014) http://www.reuters.com/video/2011/01/19/virtual-windows-take-you-where-you-want?videoId=178741073
- Hegarty, F., D. Roche, C. McCabe and S. McCann. "Using Multimedia Technology to Help Combat the Negative Effects of Protective Isolation on Patients: The Open Window Project - An Engineering Challenge." Journal of Visual Communication in Medicine. September-December 2009, Volume 32, Issues 3-4, Pages 72-77. (March 11, 2014)
- Henry, Alan. "Use a Projector to Change Your Window View to Anywhere in the World." Lifehacker. August 30, 2013. (March 13, 2014) http://lifehacker.com/use-a-projector-to-change-your-window-view-to-anywhere-1223557802
- Hoagland, Ryan. "The Virtual Window Project." September 21, 2004. (March 11, 2014)
- Hollister, Sean. "Winscape Virtual Window Features Wiimote Headtracking, Absolutely Made of Win." Engadget. April 15, 2010. (March 11, 2014) http://www.engadget.com/2010/04/15/winscape-virtual-window-features-wiimote-headtracking-absolutel/
- Ijsselsteijn, Wijnand A., Willem Oosting, Ingrid M. L. C. Vogels, Yvonne A. W. de Kort and Evert van Loenen. "A Room with a Cue: The Efficacy of Movement Parallax, Occlusion, and Blur in Creating a Virtual Window." Presence: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments. June 2008, Volume 17, Issue 3, Pages 269-282. (March 11, 2014)
- Kawamoto, Ken. "Moving Windows, a simple way to hack the view from your room." August 24, 2013. (March 13, 2014) http://kawalabo.blogspot.jp/2013/08/moving-windows-simple-way-to-transform.html
- McCabe, Catherine, Denis Roche, Fran Hegarty and Shaun McCann. "'Open Window': a randomized trial of the effect of new media art using a virtual window on quality of life in patients' experiencing stem transplantation." Psycho-Oncology. February 2013, Volume 22, Issue 2, Pages 330-337. (March 11, 2014)
- Mossesgeld, Rico. "The $10,000 Virtual Window You Won't Use." Tom's Guide. June 9, 2010. (March 12, 2014) http://www.tomsguide.com/us/Sky-Factory-eScape-virtual-window,news-7019.html
- RationalCraft. "Winscape" (March 11, 2014) http://www.rationalcraft.com/Winscape.html
- RationalCraft. "Winscape Application." (March 11, 2014) http://www.rationalcraft.com/Winscape_App.html
- RationalCraft. "Winscape - The Making Of." (March 11, 2014) http://www.rationalcraft.com/Winscape_MakingOf.html
- RationalCraft. "Winscape Marketeer." (March 11, 2014) http://www.rationalcraft.com/WinscapeMarketeer.html
- RationalCraft. "Winscape Remote." (March 11, 2014) http://www.rationalcraft.com/Winscape_Remote.html
- RationalCraft. "Winscape - Scenes." (March 11, 2014) http://www.rationalcraft.com/Winscape_Scenes.html
- Selleck, Evan. "Sky Factory eScape Window Will Simulate the Outdoors for Almost $10,000." SlashGear. June 4, 2010. (March 17, 2014) http://www.slashgear.com/sky-factory-escape-window-will-simulate-the-outdoors-for-almost-10000-0488472/
- Sky Factory. "eScape." (March 11, 2014) http://www.skyfactory.com/products/eScape/
- Sky Factory. "Luminous Virtual Windows." (March 12, 2014) http://www.skyfactory.com/products/luminous-virtual-window/
- Sky Factory. "Portfolio." (March 17, 2014) http://www.skyfactory.com/portfolio/
- Sky Factory. "Products." (March 11, 2014) http://www.skyfactory.com/products/
- Sky Factory. "Rectilinear Luminous SkyCeilings." (March 12, 2014) http://www.skyfactory.com/products/luminous/
- Sky Factory. "SkyV." (March 12, 2014) http://www.skyfactory.com/products/SkyV/
- Sorrel, Charlie. "Winscape: Convincing Fake Windows for Cubicle-Dwellers." Wired. April 19, 2010. (March 11, 2014) http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/04/winscape-convincing-fake-windows-for-cubicle-dwellers/
- Therapeutic Environmental SolutionS (TESS). "Creating Healing Environments." (March 11, 2014) http://www.tesspatientexperience.com/
- VisualTherapy. "About." (March 13, 2014) http://www.visuallytherapeutic.org/about-visualtherap/
- VisualTherapy. "CeilingMural Transparencies (CMTs)." (March 13, 2014) http://www.visuallytherapeutic.org/products/ceilingmural-transparencies/
- VisualTherapy. "Indows WallMural Transparencies (WMTs)." (March 13, 2014) http://www.visuallytherapeutic.org/products/indows-wallmural/