Virtual Reality and Head Mounted Displays 101
Hi I am Sandra Cannon and I want to talk to you about virtual reality. Virtual Reality is a digitally created 3D environment with a sense of scale and presence in which you the viewer can interact and explore.
Virtual Reality is NOT, is hardware, software, Head Mounted Displays, goggles, viewing devices, glasses, any peripheral or computer or computing device. This is like film or cinema is not cameras, editing software, theaters or television, but the content of film.
There is a lot of excitement right now for virtual reality and its potential uses. I was part of the first wave bringing Virtual Reality to market in the 1990s but we were waiting for technology to catch up.
I am extremely passionate about virtual reality, but I wanted to post a video for people who are new to it.
I am sure you have heard about the the Head Mounted Displays or HMDs. Virtual Reality is NOT defined by the use HMDs but Virtual Reality is arguably better experienced as an immersive state with an HMD.
So, let’s talk about Head Mounted Displays. Currently the main HMDs that are on the market are from major consumer electronic companies. These include Sony PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift (with versions), Samsung’s GearVR and Google Cardboard. There are three main differentials in HMD’s; 1) The screens: Either the screens are built in or use smartphone trays 2) Tracking points and tracking sensors, how many are there and how you use them 3) and if the head mounted display is wired or wireless.
HMDs that have their own screens use stereoscopic content which is not viewable without an HMD. HMD’s that have their own OLED screens for beautiful content display are the premiere VR experience, or state of the art. Sony VR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift use OLED screens.
HMDs like Samsung GearVR and Google Cardboard use smartphone trays and the content is also stereoscopic, but you put your smartphone in a tray and view the stereoscopic content through the viewer. Google Cardboard is a technology not a head mounted display, hence you can buy a wide variety of inexpensive cardboard HMDS and is nicknamed “VR for the masses”. This is creating terrific branding opportunities. McDonalds in Sweden created happy meal boxes that folded into an HMD, Coca Cola has a video promoting how you can create an HMD from their box packaging and the New York Times sponsored a body of provocative content and sent out a branded google cardboard viewer to their 13 million newspaper subscribers.
Virtual Reality Viewer Made from Recycled Cardboard
Virtual Reality can be viewed in 2D with the user exploring the panoramic VR world by moving their device manually with a mouse or keystrokes. It requires a helper application or VR player in a browser on your computer or app you download on your smartphone. These VR worlds are 360-degree content and hence the viewer can see above, below, behind their point of view and move around. I am going to list out links for you to see Virtual Reality content in this way below.
Virtual Reality is defined by the viewer having a sense of space within the 3D environment. Head Mounted Displays that use smartphone trays use the technology in your smartphone for tracking, specifically the gyroscope which tracks your head movement. It tracks panning and tilting, that is left to right and up and down. This is specifically well suited for cinematic VR and 360 degree worlds. It does not allow for interacting with moving things in the space or other types of game play.
Head Mounted Displays with their own screens primarily use positional tracking. They come with a tracking sensor or “tracking camera”, either one or two or in some cases more and they track your head movement within the 3D environment. In the case of one tracking sensor or tracking camera, the sensor emits a cone shape infrared field which tracks infrared sensors in your head mounted display and tracks your head movement.
I played the new game EVE: Valkyrie at the Computer Game Developers conference Nvidia demo booth on Oculus Rift with one tracking sensor. I am not much of a gamer in that I do not like to shoot things up, but I found that I sat back and enjoyed the view from the spaceship I was riding in the virtual world. I found that I forgot about everything else in the world for a few moments. When I got out of this demo I thought “Wow, we are really here with this, we are really here with Virtual Reality and there is so much we can do.”
Ok, so let’s take it up a notch and talk about what happens when you add two tracking sensors for what is called room scale. The two sensors are usually the size of three inch cubes and they are placed diagonally. With two tracking sensors, now we are talking about something that is called room scale. The two tracking sensors create a rectangular infrared field to track the sensors on your head mounted display and now perhaps on your hand controllers or wherever else a positional tracker might be put. I went to the Oculus Rift demo, Bullet Train. We have upped the ante here because now I have tracking sensors in my hand and there are two sensors in the room creating room scale.
Next I went to Nvidia VR works and enjoyed the Everest VR demo. What I like about this demo is it is not a game per se, this Is an experience. This is climbing Mount Everest. So, I am from Colorado and I have tried rock climbing. I am not very good at it because I am afraid of heights. I have always wanted to know what it is like on the top of Mount Everest, and now I kind of do. When we talk about experience this is when I think we are really talking about what VR can do.
Futuremark is a VR benchmarking company. I went to the Futuremark booth to talk about room scale without the room.
If you do not have entire room to dedicate to your virtual reality, when you get to the boundaries of your virtual world a neon turquoise blue grid displays. In this demo the tracking sensors are ten feet apart, which is about the smallest distance you can separate the two tracking sensors. Room scale is an issue because if you do not have an entire room to dedicate you could fall over things in your physical world. Realize that there is also the possibility of reaching out to lean on virtual items and falling over.
This is Manus VR, an in glove experience. There are sensors in the gloves attached to hand controllers on my arms. I am demoing this with HTC VIVE. There are tracking sensors on poles diagonally on either side of me. The gloves allow me to interact with the 3D environment, which is a pretty magical experience. You can see on the screen me experiencing my hands. This was a game in which you were supposed to catch the fireflies and put them in a light post. I did not quite get that. I catch the fireflies and pet them and then waved them around and making light trails on the screen. They said I made up my own little game. That is kind of my norm. The gloves allow me to move things around in the computer generated environment. There were a variety of experiences in the game including a 3D puzzle and playing piano keys. It was a very magical experience. This demo is very simple but if you extrapolate to the kinds of things you do with sensors on your hand with sensors on your hands in virtual environments, it is pretty amazing. These gloves are a consumer product that will be available later this year for a price point of around $250.00.
Ok, so now that we have talked about room scale, I want to talk about other possibilities when we put positional trackers on other parts of the body. This is Omni, it is sort of an exercise machine. This demo has two players engaged in a virtual game, each in their own Omni, they have positional trackers on their shoes. On the bottom of their shoes are pads that match the flooring material in the Omni so they can run and feel like they are running. I am told they have 5000 units on preorder right now.
Next I tried virtual archery at Sixense Archer VR. My motions were tracked to pull virtual arrows from my virtual quiver to put in my virtual bow and shoot into a computer generated environment. It feels real.
Nexperience a combination of a simulator on a platform and Oculus rift. The passengers feel motion and movements to go with the virtual ride they are seeing in their head mounted displays. Virtual Reality roller coasters and/or amusement parks are thought to be the wave of the future. There are already over 24 virtual reality rides in existence. I asked two people who tried the ride and they described it as “awesome”. Samsung Gear VR created a roller coaster experience that was at SXSW.
Samsung GearVR and Google Cardboard HMDs rely on the viewer turning their head using the gyroscope in your smartphone. Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony VR all have positional tracking. They all have hand controllers available. Only HTC VIVE offers two tracking sensors and full room scale virtual reality at this time.
Wired and Wireless
I have already touched on this, another big difference is wired or wireless. Whether they are tethered to your computer. The serious gaming HMDs for gaming need to be wired in order to exchange all that data. What you are experiencing, where you are in the virtual world and the responding computer generated environment updated on your screen.
I visited Vuzix who has a wireless head mounted display and tried a flight simulator. There was still a wire involved, but it was for sound. Gameface also has an excellent wireless head mounted display that is getting a lot of recognition.
It is projected that there will be over 200 Head Mounted Displays on the market available by this time next year.
Wireless positional tracking is in the works with companies like Nitero and Universes. In the near future you may be able to move your virtual reality environment with eye movements. That is really radical, eye movements to control your environment.
Virtual Reality Content
Ok, lets talk about how you can see virtual reality content because there in lies the rub. I bet you do not have an HMD. Hardly anyone does. So it makes it pretty hard to see to see virtual reality content at all.
Content Delivery for VR is in a nascent stage. Virtual Reality content is so new that currently you have to go to a designated place to get content. Sony VR has the PlayStation to deliver content, hence the Sony VR is a class of it’s own. It has VR content and a way to get it to you. Oculus based technology is PC dependent, you need have to have a PC or a windows based smartphone. You can find stereoscopic content on youtube by searching for it and Netflix has plans to develop VR content.
There is hope for iphone users. If you have an iphone you can go to itunes and download virtual reality applications form content providers such as Jaunt, Vrse or Ryot and their app has a virtual reality player within it and you can play their beautiful content. They give you an opportunity to view it with a head mounted display or you can see it in 2D or “panoramic”. When you watch it in panoramic on your smartphone, you take the smartphone and move it around to move around within the scene or you can use your finger to move the scene around you.
Virtual Reality content is either completely a computer generated environment, like a game or what is really new is the cinematic VR experience. The game space is pretty matured market and the best of breed game content developers will remain the best of breed creators in the future. Cinematic VR is a whole new experience in which we are learning how to tell stories in a different way and where you edit or cut, how you introduce new scenes and how does the viewer move through the story. What role do they have in created the story? There is a whole lot of interesting thinking going on in Cinematic VR.
Lutfhanza developed virtual reality content that is a crossbreed that is both cinematic and has computer generated items within it. This Lufthanza content is available at travel shows or wherever Lufthanza has a booth. They have a pod and you sit within it and you put the googles on you go within the cinematic experience to see the steward and the other passengers and fiddle with the food on your tray and do a whole host of things. Which is very unusual. In their booths when you get out of the VR experience, sometimes the actors who are within the movie are there and they give you a physical object that you might have interacted with in the experience. That is pretty new.
There is also the obvious application, Real Estate. You create the building or environment or home and then take it to the potential buyer to move through. I’ve seen whole projects in virtual reality, not just one room, in which the viewer can move through entire space and look around. That is an excellent application.
There are infinite possibilities for big brands to use Virtual Reality. I have considerable experience exploring these ideas in terms of what will really work and what won’t. If there is a call to action, it is the call to action of this video, if you are interested in exploring how this could work for your company, contact me. Primarily I want to help anybody that wants to know what virtual reality is, what the basics are, and how you can see some virtual reality.
I’ve listed out some places to see Virtual Reality content and links to see it below. I will take a deeper dive in to cameras, content creation tools and more on story telling and content creation in future videos. I am looking forward to the future of Virtual Reality.
Virtual Reality can be viewed in 2D, on a computer either MAC or PC, with the user exploring the panoramic VR world by moving with a mouse or keystrokes. It requires a helper application or VR player in a browser on your computer or app you download on your smartphone. These VR worlds are 360-degree content and hence the viewer can see above, below, behind their point of view and move around.
It is thought that one of the biggest adopting markets of virtual reality will be in creating memories and keepsakes of rites of passage and family in virtual worlds.
Virtual Reality Content:
- Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine
- Everest VR
- Bullet Train
- Water Bears VR - A VR puzzle game for everyone
- The Blue Encounter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFKbL-GU-_U
- TiltBrush - create art in VR! // https://youtu.be/ayH_pwSTlk4
- Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine
Oculus Gear VR
- Orion Trail VR - A space adventure centered around making tough calls // website http://oriontrail.schellgames.com
- The Blue Encounter
- The Night Cafe: An Immersive Tribute to Van Gogh (More of an experience)
- VRSE http://vrse.com
- Jaunt https://www.jauntvr.com
- Ryot http://www.ryot.org/virtualreality
Find on itunes, Samsung or online
Find on a PC or MAC”
- Vrideo (http://www.vrideo.com ) – a destination website with vr videos
- Littlstar (http://littlstar.com) – a destination website with vr videos
- Youtube (http://www.youtube.com) - search for virtual reality (content)
Direct Link to some VR content on youtube.com
- 360 Heros or Labs - http://360labs.net/work
- The Assembly nDreams - http://www.ndreams.com/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wuc9Y811Pkk
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