The concept of Omnidirectional Treadmill Simulator (for home use) first come into my sight in 2013 CES, when Virtuix showcase their prototype which was originated from a Kickstarter campaign.
The Omni-directional treadmill replaces the traditional use of joystick and allows players to walk and run in 360 degrees inside videos games using body movement, providing a higher level of immersion while gaming.
The technology was immature when it was first released 9 years ago as the devices only allow simply walking and running. The technology has matured over the year, the latest product allows the user to perform more complex movements such as crouch, kneel and jump. The following video shows the latest version of the treadmill.
Other companies have followed the trend. The following video shows a similar product by another company that is currently available for purchase.
Gaming is often associated with unhealthy behaviour as gamers spend most of their time sitting down in front of the screen. I like how the device will change this idea to “Some Gaming device is healthy as the player will have to move their body while playing the game”. providing a platform for the gamer to play healthy while moving.
When playing a VR game, the players will often minimize their lower body movement. Otherwise, they might end up being one of the people in the video.
The treadmill improves the safety of the player by fixing the player in one place. It also reduces the space required for the VR setup, as a larger space is usually required to avoid collision with furniture while playing VR games. It also allows the player to make intensive movements such as running, which is usually impossible for a home VR setup due to limited space. The devices also improve the immersion of the VR experience as the player will not need to consistently worry about their location, avoiding the fate of ending up as one of the people in the video.
The Omni-direction treadmill is a heavy source of noise pollution. The noise produced by the device may be unbearable to the player family/housemate, especially when the player is making intensive movements such as running. The device may not be suitable for player who often plays the game at midnight and might disturb their family/housemate when using the devices. One of the possible improvements is to make use of noise damping material to reduce the sound produced when interacting with the devices. It is also possible to provide a soundproof dome (which the player can buy as an add-on) that cover the entire devices to minimize noise pollution when using the devices.
The notion of “walking” is replicated by using specialized shoe or shoe covers and a surface that reduces friction. It gives a feeling of walking on ice, which isn’t that realistic and immersive. The devices may be improved by using an actual Omnidirection treadmill.
The current technology is current immature (and bulky). I will be looking forward to a future(decades?) where a true Omni-direction treadmill is available to home consumers.
With the recent trend of virtual reality, many games have tried to create a VR version of their world, and Minecraft is one of the more popular game that has succeeded in converting its world into virtual reality. Minecraft is a sandbox video game where the environment and its inhabitants are made up of blocks.
Being a classic game many people have played before, introducing the VR version brings a new sense of experience in exploring the virtual world. The activities from the original version could be done inside the virtual world, with a more feeling of closeness. One can feels more close to the world as compared to seeing it through the screen as the player movement is followed closely which bring a higher sense of control inside the world. Mining and killing enemies is also more exciting as hand movement is required to execute the order which make it more interactive as compared to clicking a button. Hence the VR version of Minecraft helps to create a more interactive experience for the players to enjoy inside the world.
However, some people might not be familiar with the experience that comes along with VR. Some might feels that they are too close to the world and might feels excessive emotion such as being scared when a explosive creeper appear out of nowhere inside the virtual world as compared to just appearing on the screen. Some might get VR motion sickness as their movement inside the world might be too excessive like when falling of a cliff. Therefore, not everyone would enjoy Minecraft VR as different people have different expectation of the virtual world and some experience are hard to be compromised for everybody. Nevertheless, some of the experience could be toned down as not everyone is well versed with virtual reality and some of them might be newcomers to virtual reality.
In conclusion, I feels that it is good that many games such as Minecraft are trying out VR version of their worlds to bring out a new gaming experience. However, not all games can be converted into virtual reality and some games should remain as it is as the VR version might be a disappointing experience in the end. Overall, Minecraft itself is a great game and the VR version attract people that want to experience more of its world.
The caption above is a pretty succinct explanation of the core mechanics of the game. The gameplay is simple: time moves only when you move, use this ability to take down numerous bad guys with a variety of weapons lying all around the map. Originally it started as an entry from 2013 7 day FPS challenge, it further expanded to a full game with funding from Kickstarter. This is one of the most engaging FPS titles that I’ve played and it adds a new dimension to FPS genre in which the genre has gotten pretty stale over the years (my honest opinion, don’t stone me if you enjoy FPS games).
Despite dying repeatedly in this game, I could not help but to keep retrying over and over again. Because time only moves when you move, everything around you slows down, allowing you to evade bullets and take your time to aim with utmost precision. It feels incredibly badass to be able to dodge incoming bullets similar to the famous bullet dodging scene in the Matrix. It is thrilling to see bullets whizz past you knowing that if one of these hits you, it’s game over.
Being able to dodge bullets in slow motion is a powerful selling point, but it’s not the only element that keeps me engaged in the application. The reason why I keep going back to the game is due to the high level of freedom, creativity and immersion offered. In VR, you can individually control each hand. This allows for more immersive gameplay as you feel directly involved in the middle of the gunfight itself. Instead of playing through WASD + mouse on PC, your hands are frantically searching for anything useful to fight back.
To make things more interesting, each hand can carry a different weapon. Other than firing guns, you can actually throw your weapons to kill, hit enemies in close range or even block bullets like in a Japanese anime fight. This allows for many creative approaches to the game. You can dual wield pistols like Lara Croft, throw bottles like in a bar fight or shank opponents up-close. Unlike most VR games that has clunky controls and being largely restrictive, freedom in Superhot VR is largely bounded by your wits, luck and the amount of space in your room.
The first feature that immediately caught my eye is the minimalist, abstract art style. I really liked the simple color palette of the game: white means environmental backdrop, red means bad guys, navy blue means weapons, only 3 crucial colours reminiscent of the popular “3 Colour Rule” in fashion. It is stunning to see the bad guys shatter like glass when they get killed. Other than simply being a unique treat for the eyes, this minimalist graphics serves an important function: allowing the players to see important elements clearly. In a game where you have to dodge bullets to survive, you have to be able to see the bullet trails, where the weapons are, where the bad guys are located. With all these things that the player have to look out for, I can’t see this game having a realistic-looking graphics replicating the Matrix as it would be too visually noisy to be immersed in evading bullets. Overall, this abstract art style is an excellent choice, both aesthetically-stylish and utilitarian.
The next nice feature that I would like to highlight is the game balance & direction. In this game, ammunition is scare. You run dry after firing 2-5 rounds. Made worse by the fact that you can’t reload, forcing you to scavenge weapons from fallen enemies. The lack of a hit-point bar makes it very clear that once you’re hit, you are dead. The combination of the inability to reload, death on hit and the slow motion gameplay makes the direction of the game very clear: Be careful, do not waste bullets and kill with well-timed precision and finesse. Not only does this make the game engaging in terms of difficulty, it reinforces the image that you don’t need overwhelming firepower to win. All you need are just your wits and using your foes’ weapons against them. This makes Superhot VR stand in the interesting middle ground between being an action and a strategy game.
However despite the game having nailed well in numerous aspects, there are still some shortcomings to be addressed.
The first shortcoming is insufficient levels and the lack of difficulty chokepoints (aka mini-bosses). The campaign (story mode) eventually becomes boring, and I ended up only playing endless mode, where I try my best to survive for as long as possible. The lack of bottlenecks and levels might make some users lose interest in the game experience gradually. Taking this game to a multiplayer realm is extremely daunting. Hence, my suggestion to improve replay-ability and engagement would be to make the game more rogue-like. This heavily ramps up the game’s unpredictability, making the experience more interesting for veterans.
The next is the ‘lobby’ of the game which I think is not very intuitive and have perspective scaling issues. To start the game, you have to insert a floppy disk (which some players might not even know what a floppy disk is!) representing a game mode, and then putting on a VR headset from above (yes, putting on a VR headset in-game while wearing a VR headset). I have to stand up physically to reach for the top to try to put on the virtual VR headset and it is difficult to grab. Not to mention the floppy disk representing different game modes are not the most easy to understand. This act of inserting a disk and then putting a VR headset looks cool, but to a first-timer with no prior experience of the game, this can be a bummer as they probably do not know what to do to start the game.
The last shortcoming is the limited freedom of movement. While the VR arm movement are well-executed, I felt that locomotion (movement from one place to another) still leaves a lot to be desired. You can move in the map to a limited extent as long as you have sufficient space in your room, but gameplay is still largely static. The developer addressed this by having the option to teleport to another spot in the room with a grab of a pyramid after slaying all/enough enemies.
I understand that this implementation of locomotion is easy for the user, but I really wished I could have the option of moving in all 4 directions in the room like your typical FPS shooter. Decimating an enemy stronghold on the offence is much more fun than defending myself from enemies.
Overall, this is still a fun and interesting VR application that is easy to learn and fun to play. I had so much fun doing numerous goofy antics, like lying down on the floor killing minions or waving my hands to speed up the game. All the while, my friends having a great laugh watching me play. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a VR application that is easy to pickup and play while still wanting to feel like a badass.
With the advancements in VR, the applications now include helping people cope with grief at the loss of a loved one.
In 2020, a 2-part Korean television documentary, called Meeting You (or I Met You depending on translation) was released, that told the story of using VR to reunite a mother with her deceased daughter. Jang Ji-sung, mother of four, lost her seven-year-old daughter Nayeon due to a blood disease. After 3 years, Ji-sung keeps pictures of Nayeon and all her favourite toys around the house, promising to remember her forever. But as time passed, she feared she would start to forget her daughter as her memories become more distant. Hence, she hoped to see her daughter for one last time.
her wish, the production team worked to produce this meeting between mother and
daughter in the virtual world. They recreated Nayeon to be as accurate as
possible, from the face down to the voice and motions. With a set of VR HMD and
gloves, Ji-sung was able to meet Nayeon once again and had an emotional
reunion. Nayeon’s father and siblings watched tearfully as her mother finally
gotten the closure she was seeking from this final meeting.
To make this demo possible, an HTC Vive Pro was used, along with Noitom’s VR gloves that allowed Ji-sung to interact with her daughter. The virtual Nayeon was created by Korean startup Vive Studios over the course of 8 months using various methods. High resolution photos of Nayeon’s younger sister were taken in a process called photogrammetry to serve as the basis for the 3D model, with further refinement done using old photos to better resemble the 7-year-old Nayeon. In addition, numerous child actors were brought in to recreate Nayeon’s voice according to old recordings, and motion capture was used to record an adult actor emulating the motions and facial experience based on old videos and photos.
The demo itself
was run in Unreal Engine 4, with an NPC using the animations and model of the recreated
Nayeon. The model included different levels of detail, allowing the pores on Nayeon’s
face to be seen when Ji-sung moved nearer, along with interactable hair and
clothes. The short demo also included a basic AI, allowing Ji-sung to
experience events with her daughter such as her birthday and putting her down
on her bed for a nap. While these events were ultimately scripted, it still elicited
a very emotional response from Ji-sung.
have had personal experience with many VR applications such as Superhot and
Beat Saber, as well as having developed a VR demo in UE4, it was this
recreation of a passed loved one that truly struck a chord with me. It
demonstrated the ability of VR to create immersive experiences that resonate on
a truly visceral and emotional level.
there is the elephant in the room with regards to the ethics of such an
application. Many see this as impeding the natural healing process of grief.
But such accusations were rebutted by Ji-sung, who maintained that it was a
positive expirence. Others criticised the experience as ‘fake’. While it is
true, given the virtual Nayeon is not a truly robust AI and all the encounters
within the demo are scripted, the emotional response from Ji-sung cannot be
denied. And neither can the efforts of the developers in creating a virtual
Nayeon that is sufficiently realistic while still avoiding the uncanny valley. For
performance, capturing the right motions for Nayeon to move like a convincing
7-year-old and the voice to sound like her are also props I would give to the
As to the
question of how such a use case can be improved, I would say that only time
will tell. If AI progresses to the point that we can accurately recreate
personalities of the deceased and generate interactions in real time, we could
truly remake a late loved one. And the latest improvements in creating
realistic faces can already be seen in the trailer for The Matrix Awakens made
in Unreal Engine 5 which features a highly realistic Keanu Reeves.
The viral video of Ji-sung’s final meeting with Nayeon has touched many hearts in its time on Youtube.
getting more widely used, from recreational to educational purposes, its
application is getting more and more engraving in our lives. One particular
useful example is the use of XR for the medical field.
The aim of
this XR application is to help trainee to gain experience during their
formation. It helps to bring better doctor and improve the quality of the
healthcare field. Thus, it helps curing more efficiently patients, which is a
topic I am very passionate about.
people is always an engaging cause, thereby, helping our futures doctors are
also beneficial to this cause.
As we all
now, the medical path is really complicated, and future doctors have their
patients’ life in their hands. Trainee surgeons are in dire need to train for
operating clinical interventions and the use of bodies given for science are
still nowadays a must, but they can be overused by the time.
with XR, they now have the possibility to perform a surgery in their real
environment without a need of a physical body. Thus, trainees can try multiples
times in an XR environment before operating on a body and lastly on a patient.
They can also operate with multiple people which makes them more into a real-life
situation they could face. Surgical tools can also be used in the XR with the
help of captors which helps the students to get used to handling the needed
material. Another well-made feature is the stats display : the stat of the
virtual patient is changing like a real one, thus, if someone accidentally cut
an artery, it can leads to the “patient death”.
there is still room for improvements, such as the realism of the patient, of
having resistance while performing the surgery. Indeed, the resistance of
cutting or pinching tissues are playing an important part of the surgery,
because a specific pressure needs to be applied depending on the handled
tissue. Applying to much pressure can lead to cut another organ, cut too deeply
or touch a nerve, which can leave great consequences to the patients. On the
other hands, applying not enough pressure will require several cuts, which can
leave bigger scars, a more difficult time to stitch back the tissues and a
wrong cicatrization. Other features to improve can be the stats realism and
accuracy and the database of possible train surgeries.
To sum up
this review, I would say that the XR in the medical field is an important topic
that can improve a lot the quality of the medical students as well as the
performance and the success rate of the surgery operations. It will also help
to balance the shortage of the bodies that have been given for sciences
purposes. However, besides its great help, we should not forget to improve its
realism and try to improve this aspect graphically and physically speaking,
such as replying to different pressure levels.
This application was experienced using a Lenovo Explorer VR headset with its Windows Mixed reality controllers.
Microsoft Flight Simulator(MSFS) 2020 , as its name suggests, is the latest iteration of one of the most well known and longest running flight simulator series. In one of its recent updates, it introduced a VR mode, supporting VR headsets using OpenXR.
What I love about the new VR mode is the immersion it provides, where there is an increased sense of presence in the cockpit. Instead of having to use a controller’s joystick or a mouse to look around, there is head tracking available so that you can easily have a 360 degree view from the cockpit.
One of the biggest appeals of MSFS2020 is the ability to visit anywhere on the planet, enjoying views from high up in the air. A binocular display allows for depth and 3D, which enhances this aspect of the game by giving a greater sense of scale and speed as compared to its traditional flat screened counterpart. Certain cities, such as New York City and Paris are captured through photogrammetry, allowing for incredibly realistic representation of the city in game.
It is also quite satisfying to relearn how to operate aircraft using the actual controls in the cockpit, and to sit in a pilot’s seat where the actual controls of the aircraft are faithfully recreated in the game. For example, to increase thrust of the aircraft, you would have to push the throttle physically up. It is incredibly satisfying to sit in a large aircraft such as the A320 with many different knobs and buttons and be able to interact with them to figure out what they do. After spending time exploring and learning, being able to set up an entire flight from take off, the different ways of controlling the aircraft in the air, whether it be through the autopilot systems or fly by wire, and landing the plane, provides an immense sense of accomplishment.
However, the interactions and controls using the VR controllers do leave some things to be desired. The VR controller acts like a glorified mouse pointer, which can be quite unintuitive. For example, when throttling up a twin engine plane, one would usually want to push down on both throttles, but with the VR controls, you have to look at the throttle, press down on the trigger to select it, and awkwardly attempt to slide it upward. Therefore, you have to take your vision away from the view in front of you to focus on the interior of the cockpit.
It would be perhaps more natural for the controllers to act more similarly to hands, where you would just place it over the throttle instead of aiming at it, and when holding down the trigger or side grip button, it would be considered as having selected the throttle, and pushing your controller forward and backward would control the thrust.
Another issue arises from the fact that I had a first gen windows mixed reality headset, which uses an inside out camera tracking system for controllers, which were not precise enough for small knobs requiring small motions to manipulate. Perhaps it could be designed such that we could select a control using the trigger button and after that, instead of using the motion controls, the joystick could be used, where the rotation of the joystick would be mapped to the rotation of the knob.
There is also the option of using a hands on throttle and stick (HOTAS) controller setup as well, which is a joystick with a throttle, which works quite well for VR. There are situations where certain controls are mapped to buttons which are hard to find with a headset, since you cannot see where the button is physically on the controller. Perhaps an ideal design could be a combination of having hands tracking such as in the oculus quest 2 for interactions with the different knobs and buttons in the cockpit, and the HOTAS being used for the main flight controls.
Overall, while Microsoft Flight Simulator provides an unique experience by putting you in a highly accurate recreation of aircraft, allowing you to fly anywhere in the world, due to the fact that it is designed as a flat screen experience first and then being ported over to a VR experience, its interactions and interface can be further enhanced to increase immersion as well as ease of use and convenience.
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