I want to know about how to use a virtual-reality as user interface.

Examples of virtual-reality interfaces are modern time AAA role playing games, like "The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim", "The Witcher 3" or "World of Warcraft". However, here the experience of being in that virtual reality is the goal itself.

What I am asking about is the notion of operating a software via a virtual reality which goal is some other task, e.g. accounting, data analysis, server management, enterprise resource planning and the like.

This question might be related to gamification, but is more specific, because gamification could also about reward systems and the like. In my question I want to know about the man-machine interaction.

The main advantages I see are that virtual realities, e.g. in games, are

  1. enaging, thus encouraging the user to use the software and
  2. intuitive, so is possible to operate those environments with relatively little instruction. This also includes that users are pretty easily able to navigate within those environments and do not forget how to operate within that environment. The main reason I see for that is that they use a rich set of metaphors that are already know from our real world.

Specific questions:

  1. Do specific attempts of using virtual reality as user interfaces of "serious" applications already exist?
  2. Are there guidelines for such a user interface, additionally to general heuristics like https://www.nngroup.com/articles/ten-usability-heuristics/ enter image description here
  • See this very related (possible duplicate) post: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/107098/…
    – JonW
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 13:00
  • @JonW: The question you suggested is about VR where you are wearing classes. I don't mean that. I meant a "normal" game environment. Maybe "virtual reality" is the wrong term for my question? I mean environments like in gaming (see examples) where you walk around with a character in 1st or 3rd person mode. How should I call this?
    – Make42
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 17:11
  • @Make42 VR (virtual reality) is the incorrect term in this case then. Might it be better termed as a "RPG video game"? Or simply video game? Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 6:57

5 Answers 5


There are some examples of RPG video game UI used for productivity apps.

Here are examples: 25 best examples of gamification in business

The one that seems to fit your question the best is Chore Wars.

It may sound like a household chore motivator for kids, and it is – but it’s also a great tool to use in the office to get teams more motivated to complete the more mundane tasks that need doing. With a variety of configurations, you can use ChoreWars as a one-off contest to get employees back in action, or an ongoing program with a weekly high-score table to award prizes to top competitors every week. ChoreWars turns any ordinary task into a fun, engaging competition by allowing users to create characters, create chores, and go on adventures with gold and equipment.


1) It depends on what you mean by serious. Tilt Brush, which Google bought out, is a 3D painting app. Similar apps include A-Painter, and Quill. There are also sculpting apps like Unbound Alpha, Oculus Medium, or Gravity Sketch.

2) Yes, there are specific guidelines. Google has a great HIG for VR, split up between a VR app and textual design guidelines. Oculus has written up some best practices. And there are lots of write-ups and guidelines you can find on the web.

  • I am at a lack of words here: Can you check out my comment to JonW at my question: I am not sure how to can the gaming environment that I am describing. Apparently "virtual-reality" is the wrong word.
    – Make42
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 13:28
  • @Make42 Yes, VR really isn't the right word. I don't know what the right word is, though—perhaps ask here? For now, simply describe what you're looking for: a UI which is a 2D projection of a 3D world, or something along those lines
    – Tin Man
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 15:07

I think you are talking about two separate concepts.

Games are fun because they create an illusion of achievement without real life consequences (such as death) and opportunity (it doesn't matter if you are poor, ugly and dumb you will be in charge to save the world). Interaction helps a lot but fits our brain model that is hardwired for goals and achievements (check Jordan Peterson's videos on youtube).

Another thing is VR and 3d as an interaction medium. The reason it could be "easier" is because 3D fits our mental models (we spend years learning how to manipulate objects in real life before using the computer and also with depth). So far tilt brush is the best app that does something useful manipulating some sort of data. I haven't seen anything else in VR (maybe there is something in the academic world that I'm not aware) that does a better job than 2D UI's


I think the term you're looking for is not virtual reality, but virtual world. I remember seeing this kind of virtual world interface for educational software more than 10 years ago. The reasons for this type of UI were exactly the ones you describe.

However, if I remember well, it didn't have the expected success, even with kids. The novelty wore off quickly, and the users found that it took too long to walk their character out to a specific place each time they wanted to start an action.

For intensive use with applications like the ones you mention, it would be even more cumbersome, but maybe there's something to re-think there. I have no recent example in mind.


There are many applications for VR in "serious" applications, in fact, one of the terms used in the industry is "serious games"!


Having worked for a company who produced VR products for enterprise use, one of the common applications was in training.

Specifically training where the cost of physically transporting people to the real environment was costly, dangerous or not possible. For example, it was used to train sailers where the escape routes were in a ship, so that by the time they were on board, they could visualise the route despite never having been on board.

Regarding guidelines, because many of the uses mimic 3d environments its common to overlap with ergonomics in this area, both in terms of the VR hardware, and interactions, as well as the VR environment being built.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.