Thursday @ Siggraph
Staff Writer By: Ricky Grove (gToon)
VR Village and Emerging Technologies
As you know, VR is being "pushed" everywhere. With good reason; I believe it is a truly a paradigm shift in the way we play and experience the world. And after going through 90 minutes of demos (it's sure awkward putting on those headsets), I think we still have a ways to go in order for the promise of VR to be realize. For one thing, the hardware is still primitive. Clunky headsets with attached cables have to be wrangled by a helper so you don't trip, mostly sub-standard video imagery and, surprisingly for me, some issues with balance and depth while viewing.
I realize most of the projects are in beta or are continuing research and that the big companies like NVIDIA are able to make pretty awesome video imagery in VR hardware, but it's still surprising to see such clunky rendering. That being said, I have to admit that the experience does take you away even at such a primitive level. Imagine the impact (like in the NVIDIA Everest VR) when the headgear is light weight and the rendering is of very high quality. Despite the barriers, I still got a sense of wonder going through the VR Village.
One standout was OoEs: Playing in the Immersive Game With Augmented Haptics which put an metal sphere in your hand (it became an orb in the VR experience) and took you through a series of fantasy-game experience as you learn to master the elements. I was really involved in the whole experience and found myself losing track of what reality I was in (really). Only the continuing guide kept me aware that I was in a "game". I spoke with one of the inventors/co-founders, Robert Han, after the experience and he was very keen to know how I reacted. When I told him it was a great experience, but I wanted it to be longer, he was very happy. Robert comes from National Taiwan University and runs a company called Raise Digital Studio.
The other interesting experience for me was with a group of Berkeley students who were working on basic problems of eye-focus in VR. The full title of their study is Computational Focus-Tunable Near-Eye Displays. As Robert Konrad schooled me on the problems seeing/focusing in VR and how it differs depending upon age, I began to realize that some of the issues I was having with previous demo's was exactly what they were studying: focus and depth.
The group's work can be seen at computationimaging.com where you can find more information. I went through a whole series of focus tests using equipment designed to measure my specific focal patterns. It was all quite fascinating and I'm glad to have contributed my personal eye info to their study.
You can get the full list of VR village demos here and the Emerging Technologies list is here. Sadly, the line was humongously long for the VR Storylab where they were showing Pearl and a Ghost in the Shell VR experience, so I was unable to experience these demos and films. I wish I had jumped on this on Sunday when it first opened. The list of VR Storylab installations is here (scroll down to the bottom).
The dramatic Smith Micro gang
Smith Micro Booth
An Accidental Conversation
Thank you, "Jane", for finishing up my Siggraph experience with exactly what I need: a good conversation that left me thinking and wondering.