This post presents a TEDx talk threading through the connected research topics of games, neuroscience, vr as an input device, and BCI.
Ahead of Oculus Connect 6 (OC6), I attended the Oculus Launchpad and Start dinner tonight. I saw a ton of vibrant communication and hopes for the next few days. In no small order, developers were internationally based, from places such as Canada and New Zealand. I noticed a pattern of developers who seem to be holding full-time jobs all the while in pursuit of publishing an app to the Oculus Store.
The following is a write up from a friend, Kathryn Hicks, on the Danse blog. The link to the original is at the bottom.
Last week I attended the 5th Oculus Connect Conference held at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. This two-day conference is held annually during the fall, which showcases the new virtual reality technology from Oculus. It was my second time attending, and it felt even better than the last one.
During the Keynote address, Zuckerberg announced a wireless headset that doesn’t need a cell phone, and an external computer. The Quest, a standalone headset with 6 degrees of freedom, touch controllers and is a potential game-changer for the VR industry. If you are familiar with the Rift and the Oculus Go, the Quest would be a marriage of the two. The Quest is scheduled to come out this spring and will be $399, and a lot of the Rift titles will be available on the Quest. While unfortunately, I was not able to try it, the feedback that I heard from others was positive. The tetherless aspect of the headset creates a more immersive experience and doesn’t feel confined. While the graphics capabilities of the headset are not as high as the Rift, they are good enough and don’t hinder the experience. Plus the optics, as well as the sound, have improved from the Oculus Go. On the downside, the Quest is reportedly top heavy and a denser headset than the Go, which I find the Go to be more substantial than the lightweight Rift. Since the Quest has four inside out cameras on the front of you, if you move the controllers behind you, you could potentially lose tracking. Hopefully, they will make these adjustments before it launches in the spring and add tracking on the strap. I can see much potential with the Quest, such as eSports, education, businesses, medical, engineering, set design; the list goes on. The possibilities are endless, and for the price point, it could substantially increase VR users. Considering that the Quest will be the price of most gaming consoles, without the need of television or home set up.
Walking around the conference was lovely, I felt like a kid in a candy store seeing people putting their full body into the Quest. The well-orchestrated design layouts and theme of the different experiences were terrific. It was a pleasure hearing eSports commentary and cheers as competitors go head to head playing Echo Arena and Onward. Seeing the VR community connect, share laughs, smile, and have a good time, warmed my heart. I enjoyed watching people play the Dead & Buried Quest experience in a large arena and seeing their digital avatars battle each other on screen. I can see more VR arenas being built specifically for the Quest, kind of like skate parks, or soccer parks, but with a sports stadium vibe.
While I was at the conference, I tried a few experiences like The Void – Star Wars Secrets of the Empire, which is a full sensory VR experience. You are an undercover Rebel fighter disguised as a Stormtrooper, as a user you get to interact with your teammates fully, feel, and smell the environment around you. It was a fantastic experience, and I would encourage others to try it at one of the nine locations.
Another experience I tried was the Wolves in the Walls a VR adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book and created by the company Fable. The audience explores parts of Lucy’s house to try and find hidden wolves in the walls. It was a more intimate experience, and Lucy’s performance felt pretty lifelike. The environments and character designs were beautifully portrayed. Overall it was an enjoyable VR experience.
I also played a multiplayer combat experience called Conjure Strike by The Strike Team. It’s an engaging multiplayer experience, which you can play as a different rock like characters that have different classes like an Elementalist, Mage Hunter, Earth Warden and more. The multiplayer session I had played was similar to capture the flag game. One player has to push a box toward the other side while the opposing player stops the player. It was a fun experience similar to that of Overwatch but in VR. The multiplayer mechanics were excellent, but some of the controls felt foreign to me. Overall it’s an engaging game that seems like it would be popular amongst most VR users.
While I didn’t get to play as many demos as I would have liked, I enjoyed the ones I experienced, especially The Void. It was the most immersive experience I tried, the few things I would change are: update the headset and enhance the outside temperature and wind strength.
I’m looking forward to more development put towards, the Quest and I’m optimistic about the future of VR. As a team member at The Danse, I am excited to work on projects utilizing immersive technology such as virtual & augmented reality. Also, to work in an industry, the is ever changing and improving. It’s nice coming back to the Oculus Connect Conference and see the community excited about the future of VR.
- Kathryn Hicks
via read the full version from the author’s website.
As I traveled around the world with the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, universally first-timers would be fascinated, but a bit woozy after trying VR. What contributes to this? One possibility is the vergence-accommodation issue with current displays. However, the subject of this post is locomotion and the anatomical reasoning behind the discomfort arising from poorly designed VR.
With VR you typically occupy a larger virtual space than that of your immediate physical surroundings.
So, to help you traverse, locomotion or in other words a way of sending you from point A to point B in the virtual space was designed. Here’s what this looks like:
Caption: This guy is switching his virtual location by pointing a laser on the tip of his controller to move around.
Movement with changing velocity through a virtual environment can contribute to this overall feeling of being in a daze.
That’s why most creators smooth transitions and avoid this kind of motion (i.e. blink teleport, constant velocity movement from Land’s End). Notice how the movement seems steady and controlled below?
Acceleration and Velocity
‘Acceleration’ is, put simply, any kind of change of speed measured over time, generally [written] as m^-2 (meters per second, per second) if it’s linear or in rad^-2 (same but with an angle) if it’s around an axis. Any type of continuous change in the speed of an object will induce a non-zero acceleration.”
The Human Vestibular System
When you change speed, your vestibular system should register an acceleration. The vestibular system is part of your inner ear. It’s basically the thing that tells your brain if your head is up or down, and permit[s] you to [stand] and walk without falling all the time!
Fluid moving in your semicircular canals is measured and the information is communicated to your brain by the cranial nerves. You can think of this as [similar to how] an accelerometer and a gyroscope works.
[This] acceleration not only includes linear acceleration (from translation in 3D space), but also rotational acceleration, which induces angular acceleration, and empirically, it seems to be the worse kind in the matter of VR sickness…”
Now that you have this grounding for our anatomical system of perceiving acceleration the upshot is that often viewers in VR will experience movement visually but not via these semicircular canals. It’s this incongruence that drives VR sickness with current systems.
Some keywords to explore more if you’re interested in the papers available are: Vection, Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS), and Self-motion.
Design iteration when building for the Oculus Go
With 6 degrees of freedom headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, when working in Unreal or Unity3d, it takes only a push of the play button to test your application in the headset.
There are advantages to seeing your scene from within your headset such as how your first-person perspective is developing, checking performance metrics in HUD, checking in on rendering weirdness, or correcting for relative spacing. However, the constraint of having to deploy by building and running to the Oculus Go each time we needed to check something can lessen your appetite for quick checks like this. Besides, sometimes is not even necessary.
That’s why a quick way of iterating on your scene using traditional desktop inputs is nice. Typically duplicating a currently under-construction scene into two versions. One called “site tour” for example and another called “site tour desktop”. The naming convention splits up functionality so that when you need to test something using mouse and keyboard you quickly hop into the “site tour desktop” scene. Some example mappings include UI navigation with a pointer or locomotion. The UI navigation can be done using the left mouse button and cursor instead of shipping to Go and using the hand controller. The locomotion can be done using your keys ‘w’,’a’,’s’, and ‘d’, as is common to most FPS games, to move around the space and the mouse to click and drag to move your head instead of having to teleport.
Diving deeper on the locomotion example
By throwing on headphones and using a Fly script applied to the Main Camera to test quickly using WASD within the Unity editor, you’ll be able to check relevant aspects of your lighting, audio, animations, etc without needing to wear the Go.
yaw += Input.GetAxis(“Mouse X”) * lookSpeed;
pitch += Input.GetAxis(“Mouse Y”) * lookSpeed;
pitch = Mathf.Clamp(pitch, -90.0f, 90.0f);
transform.localRotation = Quaternion.AngleAxis(yaw, Vector3.up);
transform.localRotation *= Quaternion.AngleAxis(pitch, Vector3.left);
transform.position += transform.forward * moveSpeed * Input.GetAxis(“Vertical”);
transform.position += transform.right * moveSpeed * Input.GetAxis(“Horizontal”);
transform.position += transform.up * 3 * moveSpeed * Input.GetAxis(“Mouse ScrollWheel”);
For the purposes of testing out spatial audio, I’ve noticed it’s great––mimicking head movement by panning using the mouse x.
Turning to the Oculus Rift
For what it’s worth in a post that’s supposed to be about the Oculus Go design iteration loop. In progress with an Oculus Go app currently, I and a friend find the utility of swapping a project over to the Oculus Rift to be really helpful.
What this does for you is, allow you to take advantage of the Oculus Rift during Play Mode (in Unity) which gives way to much faster iteration time. Perfect for quick fixes to code and cohesion of various parts (for example, like Teleportation and UI).
The idea of the extended mind or extended cognition is not part of common parlance; however, many of us have espoused this idea naturally since our youth. It’s the concept that we use external, physical or digital, information to extend our knowledge and thinking processes.
Today’s “born-digital” kids––the first generation to grow up with the Internet, born 1990 and later––store their thoughts, education, and self-dialogue in external notes saved to the cloud. 
“… [Andy Clark describes us as] cyborgs, in the most natural way. Without the stimulus of the world, an infant could not learn to hear or see, and a brain develops and rewires itself in response to its environment throughout its life.”
 McGonigal; “Reality is Broken” pg. 127
Rapid Worldbuilding with ProBuilder
Real Quick Prototyping Demo
- Main Probuilder window (found by going to tools>probuilder>probuilder window) – has tools and Probuilder is designed so that you can ignore it when you’ a new to using Probuilder
- Face, Object, etc. mode – will allow you to touch only the variable selectable
- A good way to learn the tool is to go through the main probuilder window and check the shortcuts
- It really helps to keep things as simple as possible from the get go. Don’t add tons of polys
- Shape selector will help you quickly make stuff
- Connect edges and insert edge loop
- Holding shift to grab multiple
- ‘R’ will give you scale mode
- Extrude is a fantastic way to add geometry
- Grid Size – keep at 1 for 1 meter this is important for avoiding mistakes when creating geo and knowing your angles
- Use the ortho top down view to see if your geo fits your grid
- Detach face settings is a way to split geo selected but it’s still part of your item
- Detach face using a different setting to create a new game object
- Pivot point needs to be rejigged often (solutions: object action or set it to a specific element using “Center Pivot”)
- center pivot and put it on the grid by using progrids
- Settings changes become the default
- Use the Poly Shape tool to spin up a room + extrude quickly
- Merge objects
- think in terms of Quads
- try selecting to vertices and connect (Alt + E) them
- select hidden as a toggle is a great option, because in 3D you are seeing an orthographic projection so you will click on the thing that is drawn closest to the camera!
- Crafting a doorway, can be done using extrude and grid meter changes, toggle the views (X, Y, and Z) to help with that
- hold v to make geo snap; this will save you time later on
- Alt+C will collapse verts (as in the ramp option where the speaker started with a cube)
- Weld vs. Collapse — weld great for merging to hallways, or collapse which is more like pushing all verts within a specific distance together
- Grow selection and smooth group
- Add more detail with loops or subdivide (smart connect)
- Polybrush will let you sculpt, smooth, texture blend, scatter objects, etc.
- Modes like smoothing
- todo explore something prefabs
- N-gons are bad because everything is made up of tris
- By default, everything is on auto which means that on in-scene handles toggle
- When you’re prototyping this allows you to not use fancy toolbar stuff
- Why is progrids helpful? Short answer: if you’re not super familiar with 3D modeling and creation software (i.e. Maya) you can create simple geo without leaving Unity editor.
- Why would you be obsessive about making sure your geo fits your 1 meter grid size? Short answer: This helps you avoid errors with geo creation such as horrid angles and hidden faces.
- Can you talk a little bit about automation with Probuilder?