Ambition and confusion come together in this outrageous virtual reality experience.
Like any emerging technology still in its infancy, virtual reality developers and manufacturers are still experimenting will all different types of concepts and designs for their headsets. All of them searching for that winning formula that could make their particular model the gold standard within the industry.
We previously touched upon some of the wackiest VR devices we’ve ever scene in a previous top five piece that featured some “interesting” design choices. Little did we know that we were actually just preparing ourselves for the reveal of what is hands down the most absurd virtual reality headset in human existence.
Appropriately labeled the FaceDisplay, this head-mounted VR device combines a modded Oculus Rift with three external touch displays to allow non-VR spectators to interact with the user’s virtual world in real-time.
By tapping on the various screens, onlookers can potentially cooperate or interfere with headset-wearers by spawning items, enemies or obstacles into their virtual world. The user can then use the same screens to interact with the scene by using different touch gestures. For example, in the video provided, an observer can be seen spawning objects into a modified version of Fruit Ninja by tapping on various points of the screen. The user then deflects the incoming hostiles by making a swiping motion across certain points of the front display.
Developed by a team at Germany’s Ulm University, FaceDisplay was born alongside the idea that virtual reality doesn’t need to be such as an isolating, inclusive experience.
According to the press release: “Mobile VR HMDs offer the ability to immerse oneself wherever and whenever the user wishes to. This enables application scenarios in which users can interact with VR in public places. However, this results in excluding all the people in the surrounding without an HMD to become sole bystanders and onlookers. We propose FaceDisplay, a multi-display mobile VR HMD, allowing bystanders to see inside the immersed users virtual world and enable them to interact via touch.”
While the team’s intentions may be noble, this may not be the best way to go about bringing multi-person VR experiences to the masses. In the product video alone, you can see several obvious device limitations that make this less of an intuitive multiplayer encounter and more of an awkward round of robot foreplay.
Having spectators share the screen space with users results in a lot of frustrating interactions. Bystanders often have to predict the motion of the user who is constantly moving their head to track the flying produce. Tapping too hard could also offset the user’s balance and result in tripping or bumping into physical objects.
Overall this is a thought-provoking proof-of-concept that will more-than-likely remain just that. While I think we can all appreciate anyone seeking to make virtual reality a more cooperative experience, there are far more effective ways to go about it. But who knows? Maybe this could evolve into a realistic option in the future. After all, the team has already announced plans to eventually replace the trio of screens with one curved widescreen display as well as implement a rear monitor. Perhaps this could raise the experience to a more comfortable level and result in a simpler, cleaner experience. Stranger things have happened.