VR Locomotion – Natural Vision

Many VR games and simulations invent new methods of locomotion to reduce virtual reality (VR) motion sickness for players. For example, teleporting the player is commonly used to reduce translational movement, which is known to cause motion sickness. However, as a person who experiences VR motion sickness, I feel that the nausea is amplified more by the instability of the camera. Therefore, I believe that any form of VR locomotion can actually be used as long as it is accompanied by a method that stabilises the player’s vision.

In real life, our vision is quite stable, whereas in VR, any slight shift of your head will be perceived as the camera wobbling. This effect is enhanced when moving, such as when walking or running, but can also occur while stationary and looking around. There are solutions that try to limit the player’s range of movement in order to reduce this wobbling effect. However, I believe that it can be reduced even further by building a gimbal into the VR headset. Gimbals are used to stabilise cameras while filming, and I believe that this can also be applied to VR headsets. The effect of gimbals will be like a hardware version of motion interpolation. This should help to reduce motion sickness by decreasing judder and unnatural eye movements. Gimbals are already used in cameras designed to film 360 degrees videos for the same reason, so why not have them inbuilt into headsets?

VR Locomotion – Walking In Place

The type of VR locomotion I would be most used to (though I have never tried) is probably a VR treadmill. One walks in place on the treadmill to simulate movement and prevent VR sickness. However, the cheapest of these still go for about $1000 (and look pretty silly). I think that thought needs to be put into where and when VR is used in gaming, so that it enhances the gameplay. In a VR game that can truly deliver experiences that one can never get in real life, then using a treadmill to simulate movement might provide extra realism.

VR Shoes – A Potential VR Locomotion Solution?

One of the limitations of VR games is the “supposed” need for real-life large spaces for players to move while playing in VR. Some solutions include using an analog stick or even teleportation to move around – but these may lead to motion sickness (or even break immersion).

Another possible solution is using electronic shoes (VR shoes). These shoes are equipped with electronic trackers that detect movement and speed.

However, unlike the treadmill that is designed to keep players in a fixed place, the VR shoes are not explicitly designed to do so. A creative way of negating movement is to pull the player’s standing foot upon the completion of one step. This feature is implemented in Ekto One, a pair of wearable robotic boots:

Source: Geek Culture (Medium)

Here is a simple video demonstration of the boots being used in Half-Life Alyx:

There are no simulations of walking on the spot. The two rotating plates are able to rotate in the direction the player is moving towards. A set of wheels pull the leg back whenever the player takes a step forward, simulating the walking sensation.

However, the boots seem to be able to accommodate only simple movements. being about to re-create side-stepping or jumping would definitely be a huge challenge, but would greatly enhance the immersive experience.

How to Not Break Anything or Vomit

Motion Sickness
Who let the pumpkin use the Rift again?

Users of virtual reality headsets tend to experience negative side-effects such as headaches and vomiting. Many games counter this by having the player be stationary and using the famous “teleport” mechanism to move around instead. To me, it seems like a cheap way to fit a conventional game into a virtual reality headset.

Virtuix Omni, the first serious virtual reality project to be developed with a treadmill.

If moving around is desired, the virtual reality headset should come along with a treadmill or various sensors that are able to detect the wall of the room that you are in. The player can then use his or her own legs to move.

A knee surgery in virtual reality.

The drawback is that the treadmills are expensive, and not everyone has a big room to walk around in. Maybe the games should be designed for the virtual reality devices, instead of it being the other way around. The immersion of virtual reality is its biggest draw, giving rise to its popularity in the medical industry as it is used as a training tool.

Tourism is an industry where virtual reality might make a difference.

Other industries might be better suited to use the virtual reality headset technology instead. For example, the tourism industry could use it to hold virtual tours, where you can transport yourself to another location using a headset, but you would be only able to look around the area rather than moving around.

Using virtual reality to become a great driver.

In fact, I feel that virtual reality may make a difference in other forms of technical training, not just in the medical schools. It could be used to learn driving, for example, though you would not be able to feel the actual acceleration and forces that are present in a real car (and that might make you sick). Jordá Autoescuelas is a school that has adopted this method of training, though it is currently only provided for interested students.

Definitely, more research has to be done into the area, which would have to be boosted indirectly by a heightened interest in virtual reality by consumers or businesses.

Mobile gaming revenue over the decades.

What makes a platform successful for gaming? I would argue that it would be how useful the platform is outside of gaming. A good example is the mobile gaming industry. Smartphones were originally designed for business use, and only became popular when they were tailored towards consumers and included features like touchscreens and 3G mobile data networks. It seems to me that mobile gaming became a big market only because these phones became popular, not because people were buying it specifically to play Angry Birds or Candy Crush.

As for virtual reality devices, I reckon that they should follow the same path as well. First, aim for widespread adoption in fields such as medical training and tourism before a market for games naturally grows and matures.

Image Sources and References:

Pumpkin, Virtuix Omni: https://www.alfabetajuega.com/reportaje/la-realidad-virtual-y-sus-metodos-de-locomocion (The Virtual Reality and Its Methods of Locomotion)

Driving: https://autoescuelas-jorda.com/blog/realidad-virtual-para-aprender-a-conducir/ (Virtual Reality for Learning to Drive)

Tourism: https://invelon.com/realidad-virtual-y-realidad-aumentada-tambien-presentes-en-el-turismo/ (Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Also Present in the Tourism)

Mobile Revenue: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/how-big-is-the-global-mobile-gaming-industry/