[Anjul Patney] and [Qi Sun] demonstrated a fascinating new technique at NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) for tricking a human into thinking a VR space is larger than it actually is. The way it works is this: when a person walks around in VR, they invariably make turns. During these turns, it’s possible to fool the person into thinking they have pivoted more or less than they have actually physically turned. With a way to manipulate perception of turns comes a way for software to gently manipulate a person’s perception of how large a virtual space is. Unlike other methods that rely on visual distortions, this method is undetectable by the viewer.
The software essentially exploits a quirk of how our eyes work. When a human’s eyes move around to look at different things, the eyeballs don’t physically glide smoothly from point to point. The eyes make frequent but unpredictable darting movements called saccades. There are a number of deeply interesting things about saccades, but the important one here is the fact that our eyes essentially go offline during saccadic movement. Our vision is perceived as a smooth and unbroken stream, but that’s a result of the brain stitching visual information into a cohesive whole, and filling in blanks without us being aware of it.
Part one of [Anjul] and [Qi]’s method is to manipulate perception of a virtual area relative to actual physical area by making a person’s pivots not a 1:1 match. In VR, it may appear one has turned more or less than one has in the real world, and in this way the software can guide the physical motion while making it appear in VR as though nothing is amiss. But by itself, this isn’t enough. To make the mismatches imperceptible, the system watches the eye for saccades and times its adjustments to occur only while they are underway. The brain ignores what happens during saccadic movement, stitches together the rest, and there you have it: a method to gently steer a human being in a way that a virtual space is larger than the physical area available.
Embedded below is a video demonstration and overview, which mentions other methods of manipulating perception of space in VR and how it avoids the pitfalls of other methods.
The browser you are reading this page in will be an exceptionally powerful piece of software, with features and APIs undreamed of by the developers of its early-1990s ancestors such as NCSA Mosaic. For all that though, it will very probably be visually a descendant of those early browsers, a window for displaying two-dimensional web pages.
Some of this may be about to change, as in recognition of the place virtual reality devices are making for themselves, Mozilla have released Firefox Reality, in their words “a new web browser designed from the ground up for stand-alone virtual and augmented reality headset“. For now it will run on Daydream and GearVR devices as a developer preview, but the intended target for the software is a future generation of hardware that has yet to be released.
Readers with long memories may remember some of the hype surrounding VR in browsers back in the 1990s, when crystal-ball-gazers who’d read about VRML would hail it as the Next Big Thing without pausing to think about whether the devices to back it up were on the market. It could be that this time the hardware will match the expectation, and maybe one day you’ll be walking around the Hackaday WrencherSpace rather than reading this in a browser. See you there!
They’ve released a video preview that disappointingly consists of a 2D browser window in a VR environment. But it’s a start.
Light Field technology is a fascinating area of Virtual Reality research that emulates the way that light behaves to make a virtual scene look more realistic. By emulating light coming from multiple angles entering the eye, the scenes look more realistic because they look closer to reality. It is rumored to be part of the technology included in the forthcoming Magic Leap headset, but it looks like Google is trying to steal some of their thunder. The VR research arm of the search giant has released a VR app called Welcome to Light Fields that uses a similar technique on existing VR headsets, such as those from Oculus and Microsoft.
A simple way to integrate physical feedback into a virtual experience is to use a fan to blow air at the user. This idea has been done before, and the fans are usually the easy part. [Paige Pruitt] and [Sean Spielberg] put a twist on things in their (now-canceled) Kickstarter campaign called ZephVR, which featured two small fans mounted onto a VR headset. The bulk of their work was in the software, which watches the audio signal for recognizable “wind” sounds, and uses those to turn on one or both fans in response.
The benefit of using software to trigger fans based on audio cues is that the whole system works independently of everything else, with no need for developers and software to build in support for your project, or to use other middleware. Unfortunately the downside is that the results are only as good as the ability of software to pick the right sounds and act on them. Embedded below is a short video showing a test in action.
VR is in vogue, but getting on board requires a steep upfront cost. Hackaday.io user [Colin Pate] felt that $800 was a bit much for even the cheapest commercial 360-degree 3D camera, so he thought: ‘why not make my own for half that price?’
[Pate] knew he’d need a lot of bandwidth and many GPIO ports for the camera array, so he searched out the Altera Cyclone V SOC FPGA and a Terasic DE10-Nano development board to host it. At present, he has four Uctronics OV5642 cameras on his rig, chosen for their extensive documentation and support. The camera mount itself is a 3D-printed octagon so eight of the OC5642 can capture a full 360-degree photo.
You have to hand it to Nintendo, for blazing the virtual reality trail in consumer products a couple of decades before everyone else, even if the best that can be said for their efforts in that direction is that they weren’t exactly super-successful. Their 1989 Power Glove became little more than a difficult-to-use peripheral for everyday console games, and their 1995 Virtual Boy console was streets ahead of its time but had a 3D effect that induced discomfort in its players.
They’ve taken a Power Glove, and through an Arduino Due with a custom shield, interfaced it to the Vive controller mounted where the buttons would have been in its Nintendo days. The Vive provides positional data, while the Nintendo sensors provide hand data. Thus they’ve made an accomplished glove peripheral with a lot less heartache than they would have seen had they done so from scratch.
They show us a couple of environments using the glove, an iPad simulation which we’re having a little difficulty getting our heads round, and a rock/paper/scissors game which looks rather fun. If you are interested in further work, all their code is on GitHub.
The future is VR, or at least that’s what it was two years ago. Until then, there’s still plenty of time to experiment with virtual worlds, the Metaverse, and other high-concept sci-fi tropes from the 80s and 90s. Interactive telepresence is what the Black Mirror Project is all about. Their plan is to create interactive software based on JanusVR platform for creating immersive VR experiences.
The Black Mirror project makes use of the glTF runtime 3D asset delivery to create an environment ranging from simple telepresence to the mind-bending realities the team unabashedly compares to [Neal Stephenson]’s Metaverse.
For their hardware implementation, the team is looking at UDOO X86 single-board computers, with SSDs for data storage as well as a bevy of sensors — gesture, light, accelerometer, magnetometer — supplying the computer with data. There’s an Intel RealSense camera in the build, and the display is unlike any other VR setup we’ve seen before. It’s a tensor display with multiple projection planes and variable backlighting that has a greater depth of field and wider field of view than almost any other display.