Tuesday, 26 September 2017

VR Running Platform

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Virtual reality (VR) is the mind-blowing world where things simulated by a computer look and feel real by way of special equipment (like a helmet with a screen inside or gloves with sensors for example).

Companies from around the world are scrambling to capture this lucrative market and make the virtual experience as lifelike and immersive as possible.  From the early days of virtual reality, things have come a long way in terms of quality and cost, but hiccups still remain when it comes to user input (things like buttons, pads or sensors).  The rationale being, that better inputs make for better games, but it’s not likely that current devices out in the market are of high enough quality.

Virtual Reality Sets


The real challenge for virtual reality developers today is finding the right fit between games and the hardware that creates the maximum connection between game player movement and enjoyment.  How much a player enjoys a game is closely linked to how accurately the game can track the player’s movement for the most immersive experience possible.

Marks, a senior director of R&D at Sony’s Magic Lab explained, “Input technologies is new to an industry that has mostly settled on the gamepad decades ago. People working in virtual reality need to be able to create interaction in the real world that feels right”.

Needless to say motion sickness matters a lot here, which was a problem in the early days, but seems to better adjusted today, with some companies like HTC Vive claiming zero percent of people get sick playing. The other thing on many peoples’ mind is the cost associated to virtual reality.  There’s not much about virtual reality that’s inexpensive and companies know this. Oculus for example, has said that mass-market virtual reality only happens at a low price and has been the most aggressive on price. That being said, you need a powerful and specialized PC coming in at around $1,000 that’s fast enough to keep up with the speed of the virtual reality world. For people outside the gaming community, this investment might not be easily made which presents a barrier to adoption. For now, it’s likely that virtual reality will stay expensive for the next year or so.

Nevertheless, what today’s popular platforms have accomplished is remarkable, while no platform delivers a 100% sensation of presence (the perception of feeling totally present in a non-physical world) that doesn’t mean the experience isn’t enjoyed.  After a virtual reality session there’s bound to be a smile on many people’s faces.

The following is a roundup of the most popular virtual reality platforms in the market today which include: Infinadeck, Cyberith and Virtuix.

Infinadeck is an Omni-directional treadmill (ODT), which means the user can walk in any direction indefinitely while the treadmill reacts to keep them safely in the center. Although cool in theory, the machine requires a human operator, which means it’s not nearly responsive enough for the quick movements a player would realistically make in a VR game.

Imagine something in the game jumps out at you and scares you! Your natural reaction would be a quick, jerky movement (maybe even jumping back), but the Infinadeck wouldn’t be fast enough to keep up with you!  Some users who tried the machine reported feeling “off balance” and at 68” L x 64” W, the design could use some sleek factor! But the good news is the noise level is rather low for the design (about the same noise as a dishwasher) and the power is Bluetooth low energy.

Another big advantage is that the Infinadeck requires no special equipment, so all you need to do is get moving! Markets for the Infinadeck include: military, industrial training, fitness, rehab, research and exer-gaming. The idea of gamers being in better shape after marathon gaming sessions is definitely an interesting one!

Although not perfect, the Infinadeck is a promising platform as quoted by Dvice “Infinadeck is the floor your VR holodeck has been waiting for!”

Cyberith is touted as the next gaming revolution with no equipment necessary and the ability to run, jump, rotate and sit at any time.  The device comes with a flat, low friction surface with a unique ring that allows for vertical movements such as jumping, crouching, and 360-degree axial rotation. Despite the player’s game action, the Cyberith promises to deliver a noise free experience thanks to the textile overshoes. As for power supply, it’s as simple as a USB plug and play.

Made from durable steel and aluminum, the device can be dismantled but comes at a hefty pre-order price tag of $1,249 (excluding VAT), normally $1,419.

Similar to Cyberith, Vertuix is an easily assembled gaming platform with no moving parts that completely immerses the user in the experience. With this gaming platform you can walk, run, sit, crouch or jump in 360 degrees to steer your avatar without restrictions.  Instead of using a moving part, the Vertuix uses a concave platform that mimics a smooth, natural gait when in motion.

“In my experience, just standing up out of your chair increases the feeling of immersion’ Vertuix CEO Jan Goegluk.

Similar to Cyberith, the uses Omni shoes keeping noise to a minimum and provides ring harness support for stability. Bluetooth connectivity is available and accessories include: Omni shoes, Omni tracking pods, Omni harness and Omni rack. The PC Gamer describes it as “Jaw dropping virtual reality”.

Rounding up our discussion on the platforms, it’s easy to see that at this point the wrinkles aren’t fully ironed out, but still pretty amazing! With every major platform come remarkable feats and also aspects that leave much more to be desired.

So what does the future hold? Virtual reality is already an interesting, lucrative, and growing field, but even more exciting is thinking about the possibilities for the future.

Although improving, today’s technologies are limited by the fact that the user is still aware of the equipment being used to experience virtual reality. In other words, users know there is an “outside world” around them and don’t feel completely connected to the experience, but what about a world where you’re fully immersed and you can’t tell the difference between skydiving virtually and doing it in the real world?

The implications of living in a world like this are massive!

Think about it…

Will there come a time when we prefer our “virtual lives” to our real ones? What would that mean to human connection?  How is this sustainable in the long run?

We’re headed in that direction, and smart people are working on this right now to figure it out. The difference between virtual reality where a player puts on a headset device and artificial reality is that one is completely immersive. With artificial reality, the technology is drawing directly from the brain, which makes everything in the simulated environment feel very life like!  It’s as if the characters in the game are physically there with them in the real world!

The future is coming and whatever that future looks like, it’s sure to be more mind blowing than we can possibly imagine now. Every 12-18 months computers double their capabilities and technological advancements are nothing short of exponential.  It’s hard to imagine our world 3 years from now, let alone 10 years from now but that’s what makes it all that more exciting!