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Full Body VR Control

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I've been lurking around some of the GameDev articles on VR development and it got me thinking about getting everyone to brainstorm some ideas with me.

As you would imagine; lifelike, fully immersive VR seems to be decades (perhaps centuries) off. There are plenty of reasons for this, these reasons include the fact that you would need the control system to be pretty physically invasive in order to give you direct sensory feedback for things like sense of smell and high detail touch. One other reason is that even when you manage to build a viable brain interface with the level of control and feedback necessary, you THEN need a computer system capable of interpreting and handling all of that input. You would need to simulate the subtle environmental effects of reality (on a practically atomic level) on the human body; gentle breezes, subtle humidity changes, air resistance associated with movement etc...

It may happen one day, but not soon. The general consensus in much of the available information is that the required technology lies at the end of a long road of research in different fields - most of which aren't being heavily focused on.

The current VR experience is things like the Oculus Rift, where hand controllers bring your basic physical movements into the equation - but they're essentially Wii Remotes that don't really cover the full range of human movement (or even basic manual dexterity).

The thing I would like to discuss is this:

What kind of non-invasive game controller (using realistic, existing tech) could be developed that would allow the player to control the body's full range of movement in a VR environment?

The only feedback that needs to be implemented is sight (which I think is well on its way currently via the headsets on the market today) and audio (which could basically be integrated headphones). To me, smell and taste can be done without for now as they are to do with how we interact with substances chemically. These would be cool, but more difficult to implement and few game environments rely on these senses.

What I'm going for is a device that bridges the gap between now (Oculus Rift etc...) and the future (fully immersive, indistinguishable VR) by using realistic technology that doesn't potentially harm its operator.

Personally, I had the idea that a person could be put into a suit that restrains their movements so they aren't flailing around their kitchen while playing a game. The suit could be lined with pressure sensors, so that when the sensors in say; the top of the left arm were pressed - their character would respond by raising their left arm until it were fully extended or the pressure on the sensor were released by the player. This could be fine tuned to work with things like the hand, sensing individual digits. In-game representations of the player could have restrictions on what directions their limbs move in to prevent their hands from turning inside out if the sensors relevant to fist clenching were activated for too long.

The internet is full of upcoming products involving multidirectional treadmills etc, but it seems to me these are basically just advanced d-pads.

What are your ideas about how this could be done?

Bonus points for compact versions that could realistically be bought for home use.

 

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1 hour ago, TexasJack said:

Bonus points for compact versions that could realistically be bought for home use.

I would have assumed that that was a major requirement - not a minor "would be nice if."

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Thanks for moving this, I didn't realise that there was a VR subsection.

11 minutes ago, Tom Sloper said:

I would have assumed that that was a major requirement - not a minor "would be nice if."

Not necessarily, no.

I see your point, but it's feasible that as this tech evolves - the first full body versions will be pretty bulky affairs. The current attempts involve treadmills, harnesses that suspend you etc... and they're still very limited in the player movement that they detect/reproduce in-game.

Depending on how big they are, it could well be that the first versions of these would appear in places that resemble the arcades from the days of old (the 80s) that you pay to have a go on.

This is speculation of course, but it seems to me to be reasonably logical speculation.

It would be a 'major' requirement from a commercial point of view, but as I said, I'm just brainstorming.

 

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4 hours ago, TexasJack said:

smell and taste can be done without for now

These are nightmare-fuel. With so many action games including levels filled with corpses and widespread splatter of blood and gore, I do not want to either smell or taste most games.

Watching Food Network in that environment might be fun, but the vast majority of games it would be horrible.

 

4 hours ago, TexasJack said:

allow the player to control the body's full range of movement in a VR environment?

This has been done for years with mocap technology.  They don't typically put the person in VR goggles, but capturing and controlling the motion is already present.

This has been done with a slightly less immersive environment with full-body detection using Kinect. 

4 hours ago, TexasJack said:

fully immersive, indistinguishable VR

This is also the stuff of many nightmare scenarios. It has been the subject of horror books, novels, and comic books for nearly a century now, and been used as the basis for scary and intense films for about 60 years.

The potential use for entertainment and useful arts is far outweighed by abuse. Thankfully we are decades away from it, at least.

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At the moment we can read brain signals to use as a controller, the equipment for this is still just a bit large because of the magnets involved. Existing research into wetware has produced good results. We can make animals perceive stimulus.

In other words we have all we need for a full body controller, one where you wouldn't even have to move in physical space.

 

The largest downside and the reason this isn't used is because you would have to perform irreversible surgery. Until we find a better way of passing currents trough the human body without harming it, full body VR will have to be done by external actions; e.g. buttons and levers.

 

1 hour ago, frob said:

The potential use for entertainment and useful arts is far outweighed by abuse.

Yup, the harm VR could cause even when perfected is not worth it in the end.

Edited by Scouting Ninja

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I used to use Kinect but it is not compatible with Vive so I have shelved it. It was decent for its time and I would love an updated version that can work with Vive. It's not just the physical signal, there is some kind of clash between services.

I have made a few variations of hoverboards like the attached image. Originally I didnt have handles, used a joystick controller to give tilt and the player held the vive controllers. Its too hard to balance when you cant see so handles with joystick buttons and a Vive tracker is better. The tracker is better than a joystick as it is tracked positionaly as well as giving tilt response. I will make a seat next having made a tilting recumbent bicycle before. It will be the same principle but use arduino and electric motors to control tilt so you lean to turn etc. 

I'd say before smell and taste a more urgent requirement is standardisation in different input systems like I describe. Most current VR games seem to only support vendor controls and an open API for supporting different vehicle types for example would be awesome. As opposed to normal PC games where a game might support keyboard/mouse, joystick and XBox controller, a VR game needs a new suite of controllers that includes support for haptics. If anyone is interested in an open API project to offer a standard template for this I can contribute.

As for reading brainwaves etc that's great but probably more a question for academics looking for a thesis topic.

 

Hoverboard0.jpg

Hoverboard1.jpg

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On 19/12/2017 at 3:13 AM, TexasJack said:

it could well be that the first versions of these would appear in places that resemble the arcades from the days of old (the 80s) that you pay to have a go on.

Even without the fancy full body control or feedback systems you're talking about, VR arcades are already starting to be a thing.

A lot of the better existing hardware is rather expensive, and there aren't a lot of killer apps/games/experiences, but it does have novelty value that makes people want to try it. Almost an ideal market for arcade type setups - people don't want to pay hundreds of dollars to own their own, but are interested enough to pay $20-50 to have a go.

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