Researchers claim to have solved the primary problem stopping room-scale virtual reality (VR) gaming from becoming full-scale: the fact you can only walk in a given direction for so long before you hit a real-world wall.
The current resurgence of interest in virtual reality gaming has researchers and companies eager for a slice of the pie, and while work is well under way on solving one of the issues with current-generation VR implementations - the cables which tether you to the driving PC - the issue of the size of the gaming space exceeding the size of the physical space remains. Previous solutions have primarily revolved around physical omnidirectional treadmills, but a team of researchers led by Stony Brook University student Qi Sun claims to have a solution: walking in circles.
'In VR, we can display vast universes; however, the physical spaces in our homes and offices are much smaller,' Sun, a former research intern at Adobe Research and Nvidia, explains. 'It's the nature of the human eye to scan a scene by moving rapidly between points of fixation. We realized that if we rotate the virtual camera just slightly during saccades [rapid eye movements], we can redirect a user's walking direction to simulate a larger walking space.'
Sun's technique, known as dynamic saccade redirection, fools the user into believing that they are walking in a straight line while actually subtly redirecting them to walk in a circle. In testing, the researchers found that users were unable to notice the virtual camera's rotation so long as it happened during saccades and experienced no dizziness or sickness as a result - a major step up over previous attempts to implement similar solutions. Better still, the prototype system proved rapid enough to redirect users invisibly around objects such as tables and chairs and, impressively, even moving objects like people invading the play space.
'Currently in VR, it is still difficult to deliver a completely natural walking experience to VR users,' says Sun. 'That is the primary motivation behind our work - to eliminate this constraint and enable fully immersive experiences in large virtual worlds.'
The team's paper, Towards Virtual Reality Infinite Walking: Dynamic Saccade Redirection, was teased by Nvidia earlier this year ahead of a presentation at the SIGGRAPH conference and is available in the journal ACM Transactions on Graphics (TOG)' Volume 36 Issue 6. A YouTube video, embedded below, offers a demonstration of the technology.