2014 and we learned a lot about the world of VR and AR.
Working on this project gave me a sense of how advanced
the technology in these worlds was, but from the perspective
of a designer, it also showed me how much work needed to
be done to improve these experiences.
The point of the ART was to create a novel movie theater
experience. However, as we learned more about the world
of AR and VR, it became clear that there were some obvious
deficiencies in the current experience.
EXAMINING VIRTUAL REALI TY
Because of the fact that VR replaces at least t wo of the users
senses completely, we can judge how successful a VR experience is by how well it immerses the user in this new world.
While a user can have their vision and hearing immersed
in this new world, as soon as they attempt to stand up and
move around, or speak, or touch something in the real world
that doesn’t match what they are seeing and hearing, the
illusion is broken.
Designers have been attempting to solve these problems
to create complete, full-body immersion. This would allow
the user to not just look around the world, but to have their
full-body movements replicated in the virtual world; allow
the user to feel and manipulate the objects in the virtual
world; and allow the characters in the virtual world react to
their speech and movements.
The ideal experience looks
something like the Holodeck from
“Star Trek”. 1
In the show, simulations are
so advanced and realistic to be
dangerous, even deadly. We’re a long
way from that experience—assuming
it’s even possible—but there are a
few problems with current VR that if solved, would greatly
enhance the user experience in VR. In adapting existing and
familiar experiences into VR, the three current problems
I see are gesture controls, free movement, and tactile
Gesture controls are a significant challenge in all computing right now. Current control mechanisms like the mouse
and keyboard have been in use since the dawn of desktop
computing, but when the user isn’t chained to a screen,
these control mechanisms don’t make sense any more.
While it is possible to control VR experiences with a mouse
Let’s take a common example that many VR experiences
are trying to adapt: the first person shooter (FPS). FPS
PrioVR ( http://www.priovr.com/) is a technology that
utilizes an Oculus Rift headset and a full body suit to track
the player movements. This suit translates their movements
into movements for their avatar in the game (see Figure 3).
Their video demonstration2 shows the player picking
up, aiming, and firing weapons; leaning around corners;
and even performing melee attacks, both punches and
kicks. However, looking at the video, it doesn’t look entirely
accurate or natural. And a player using this system in their
home would need a lot of space to perform the movements
that the player in the video is performing. With their vision
completely covered, an errant movement could easily destroy
equipment in the home, or injure the player.
Another control device called Sixense (http://sixense.
com/wireless) uses a modular system that involves handheld
controllers with additional tracking points for the limbs
and torso. These additional points appear to be optional.
The handheld controllers track very precise movement of
the hands, and their video3 suggests players will be able to
naturally pick up objects in the game world (see Figure 4).
This controller appears to track gestural movements very
Figure 3. A player experiences the PrioVR system by leaning
over. His avatar in the game responds by leaning over as well.