If you were at the event, it wouldn’t be hard to stumble across the experience at Wired’s two-day flagship event that brings more than 50 speakers from around the world to present stories about their work in science, design, technology and business.
In a booth at the “Test Lab” sat a draped off section with fluorescent blue and pink floors. In the middle of the floor stood an attendee strapped into a backpack and wearing an Oculus Rift headset, their body covered with motion sensors attached to their hands, feet, legs, and chest. All the movements of the user were being tracked in real-time; transporting them to a virtual space in an experience Visualise is calling “The Cell.”
Working in collaboration with motion capture company, Audiomotion Studios, The Cell VR is a full-body virtual reality experience. With user movements being tracked and communicated to the headset via the processor in the backpack, the Oculus Rift shows an immersive world that can be navigated and interacted with.
The Cell gameplay is a simple demo where a staff member verbally guides the user through instructions on navigating the virtual space and completing various laser-theme tasks in order to escape the room or “cell”. Throughout the experience, participants can see their virtual body and body movements mapped as an avatar in real-time when they look down or at their hands.
In order to accommodate the hundred or so people who went through the experience during the event, Visualise did have to scale down some of the motion capture capabilities. Some body parts like wrist movement and fingers were not tracked in this initial experience but can easily be accomplished in future iterations.
So what were some of the things that Visualise learned from spending 2 months working on The Cell VR? Will McMaster, head of VR at Visualise had a few insights:
1. Presence is achieved more easily when you are in control of your body. The feeling of looking down at your legs and having the avatar legs respond exactly is something that makes the experience feel hugely immersive. It was the Ah Ha moment for us.
2. VR is more comfortable when you are in control of your body.
3. Give voice instructions. A good room scale VR experience needs to have another person giving voice instructions, especially given number 4.
4. Managing a room scale VR experience takes precision timing. Because only one person can be in the experience at a given time, we need to make sure we are as efficient as possible in getting people suited up.
5. Aligning a game character rigged with bones to a real person is pretty hard. This is because not everyones body is perfect. Though the motion tracking software solves some of the issues, there are challenges with making sure everyones body looks right in VR, especially if they are either much taller or shorter than average.
6. Physically limiting the user helps. We had users teathered to a cable coming from the ceiling, and while this limited immersion somewhat, it prevented the user from leaving the play space or bumping into the equipment on the outside of the space.
7. Current motion tracking systems have a long way to go before you can have perfect body tracking in VR.
8. People do things you don’t expect in VR, like grab objects with two hands rather than one.
9. Hacking motion tracking hardware to work in VR is hard.
10. VR is more fun when you can move around!
Image Credit: Visualise