Seeking Entry into New Worlds
SPD 1.1 Blog Post — VR Technology
As development in technology steadily advances, there is still an underlying excitement, a wish that people have had for decades; Virtual Reality. That is, people have dreamed of being able to enter alternate realities, different worlds, and experience the new and exciting. Many have tried and are still trying to make the perfect way to accomplish this, and many are happy with how things are now.
The Context — Competitive Industry Analysis:
Currently, the main form of VR is with headsets, a device with a screen inside of it that can be worn over the user’s eyes to experience different forms of media as if they were inside what they were watching. These headsets have varying forms of sensors to indicate where the user is in relation to their external environment to try to promote the user’s safety and hopefully stop them from hitting a wall or injuring themselves. There are obviously kinks to be ironed out but overall the system works very well. Some of the biggest problems are mobility related. The best headsets currently must be wired, as connecting to a higher quality computer makes it run smoothly at a higher refresh rate. They are also quite clunky and can be decently heavy, along with being limited by the cable. There are obviously headsets in development to solve these problems, but some interesting ones worth pointing out are derived straight from anime. The products that mimic things seen mostly in anime are unique, because imagination can run more wild there than other forms of media.They arent the usual VR headset, that's for sure — especially since they arent in the real world just yet. The one that looks like a helmet, named the NerveGear, is a virtual reality system that immerses the player entirely in the game. It is shown in the anime to be able to send fake sensory signals to the brain and block sensory input and muscle movement signals in the real world to avoid injuries and external interference. The other, called a Neuro Linker, is a device that connects to the user’s neck that functions as a personal computer that connects wirelessly to their brain. It allows the user to use augmented reality, being able to view intangible things in the real world, and virtual reality. The image below shows some anime snapshots as well as the device prototype and mock-ups. There is still a long way to go for these types of devices to become available to the public.
Now, to get to the issue:
In interviewing people regarding VR, I discovered that there were many issues that needed to be resolved. Not only are current VR products hard mobility-wise, there is no real standard so they are hard to refine. The problems users pointed out were diverse, but many had solutions in the works already. The main issue was the restrictions that wires and controllers create. Because there is no set standard, if the user were to try different headsets, they must get used to various controllers in order to really control their actions and the environment. Different headsets have different types of tracking in order to have the correct user input to control the in game character, so that can also pose issues. If the method of tracking the user isn't accurate, they can get glitched into less than ideal situations. Being in the game itself can pose an issue because even in the best headsets it can be easy to feel disoriented, dizzy, or sick after awhile. It can be hard to tell exact surroundings when in VR so it can be easy to bump into walls, objects, or people, and maybe cause injury. There are no water resistant options, so if the user were to exert themselves and sweat there is a risk of malfunction. There is also the issue of eye strain and possible stress this could cause to the human brain that hasnt been researched enough because it is still a fairly new technology. I had a plethora of options to choose from, and a plethora of other company’s solutions to compete with.
My proposed solution:
The final idea for my project came out of a lot of brainstorming and feels like it could be a really cool product, but I feel like it needs to be pondered upon much more. In researching and writing this paper I even came up with several other ideas, most notably a better cooling system to help prevent overheating when being active in VR, combining breathable material with some sort of fan. I personally discovered it was annoying to use controllers and wished there was some sort of tracker that kept track of my hands instead of having to hold a controller or attach sensors of some sort to them. I also thought that it would be optimal to look into more entirely hands free options. All of these ideas could be worth looking into, but for now since I've put a lot of energy on the solution this paper is about, i’ll be focusing on this solution. The idea for my project is wearable contacts that connect to brainwaves wirelessly to display an augmented reality in the real world, with the option to completely switch over to virtual reality. I imagine that it would be really cool to not only be within games virtually, but be more active physically.
My solution may feel like a step down from the Neuro Linker, but with technology currently, it is hard to tell which will come to fruition first, or if they’ll appear in a similar timeframe, sister projects, so to speak. The positive of making these contacts, is they could also double as the vision correcting type as well as a miniature personal computer. The more I write about and theorize different solutions, the further away this possibility feels, but I do think my idea has some merit and opportunities. The journey from now to my product would probably go in the direction of continuing development for technology that can predict what a person is thinking, as such technology is very simple currently and can only predict vague things. From there, it would most likely go into headsets similar to what is being used currently to make things hands free, more brain controlled. Then it might go into smaller objects, maybe a watch or Neuro Link device, then into contacts.
My own journey:
My journey as a user and new developer has been very straightforward, I hadn’t played much VR before this point so it was extremely helpful to find those more experienced than me to interview. I was very surprised to learn the recent advancements in VR and discovered it was very hard to come up with an original idea, or even a competitor to some of the options in their early development stages. I tried to take what I had learned from my interviewees as well as my own experience to come up with ideas, and I struggled a lot. It’s guided my project in this direction though out of a need to figure out solutions, whether feasible or not. I imagined what I would have if I were able to make anything. I wanted to not only be within a game virtually but be active physically. I wanted to walk around in every day life, not run into walls, and be confident in my surroundings so that I could focus more on the immersion. I thought it would be cool to have an option where the external surroundings could be changed real time to fit into the game being played. It would be quite an interesting thing to have people or animals be mapped to look like NPCs (non-player characters) in the game. The problems with this would be partly user error, partly physical limitations. Some games break physics by allowing the player to jump higher, use different abilities, and have differing lore to what would be possible in this world. The other problem could arise with the player, viewing people as NPCs, acting in a strange or violent way when they're used to messing around in a game. I did also want to have an option to maybe lay down, meditate, shut off my muscles for a bit, and really get immersed. In order to have that many options though, I would think it would need quite a lot of capacity, diverging from what could be possible with a small thin device such as contacts. I think my main goal is to help people who play VR games achieve hands free playability through a product that converts real world visuals into augmented ones, that would allow people to be active, aware, and entertained. I think my product would definitely have a competitive advantage over others because it seems very far-fetched, but if more research were put into it, it could really have a new sort of market. In brainstorming, I also looked at the current options and common similarities and reviews. I was really unsure where my product would fit in, and so much of this paper is somewhat scatterbrained ideas. The table below shows some of the comparisons between different headsets. I thought this would give me good insight into the common wishes of consumers as well as what most needs to be worked on.
Notable Interview Questions:
When interviewing, I tried to have as unbiased an approach as possible while asking people who would have firsthand experience with technology and VR. Here are some of those questions.
- How often have you used VR?
- What genre or different types of media do you use within VR?
- What was your experience when using VR?
- What do you like about VR?
- What are some problems you’ve had with VR currently?
- What have you personally tried as a solution for your problem?
The interviews were more insightful than I expected, as I wasn't expecting very elaborate answers. I learned a lot more about the technology behind VR from my interviewees than I had learned from the research I had done. I used the answers to start brainstorming on possible solutions to these problems as well, and although amateur looking, came upon the beginnings of some good ideas. I thought I would share. This site kind of stretched the image in a strange way but I think it still gets the point across.