Serious Insights Virtual Reality Business Digest: June 7, 2016 – Nausea & Lowering Expectations
Serious Insights Commentary: Google’s 3 Rules For Designing Virtual Reality, Fast Company: Co.Design
Google has three takeaways from its recent virtual reality (VR) research:
First, let people use tools,is intuitive on the surface, but a major challenge for developers because the controllers in VR must act as all tools, which means that knowledge cannot be directly transferred from existing experience. A hammer is a very simple tool. In VR the hammer is a dumbed down set of constraints feed through a tool that has many more capabilities. Tools in VR also present issues for knowledge transfer because the VR tools, despite looking like the subject tool in the virtual environment, isn’t really the tool. Therefore, learning to use a hammer or a scalpel in VR cannot be transferred to the real world because the precision and the feedback, the weight and the physics don’t translate. As a final analog, think about firing an arrow.
In VR, you may well have a bow tool, and you may be able to pull a virtual string back to your cheek and fire, but if you pick up a real bow and arrow and you will find little in common with the virtual experience. There are efforts to map real-world objects into VR, but they are not ready yet, and they will likely suffer from a lack of precision for a long period of time.
Next, Google suggests that developersdo more than replicate reality, which again is intuitive, but difficult, because most VR isn’t as good as reality yet when it does try to replicate it. In many cases, engineered fantasy worlds are more complete than simulated real world situations, perhaps because artists are more prone to creating things they imagine than simply mimicking the real world. The best photographers use their cameras, tools designed precisely to replicate the real world with great detail, to distort their subjects so that they often reflect the most otherworldliness the real world can generate.
I don’t think developers will find much disagreement with the insight to do more than replicate reality, but they may well find it difficult, early on, to create the kinds of experiences they envision. When real-world simulations can’t perform at a hyper-real level, when what people create seems more mundane than the real world analog, perhaps, as we are seeing, it will appear more fulfilling to create fantasy worlds than real world simulations.
Google’s last design insight: limit freedom and create purpose, has many analogies about constraints and struggles. Interestingly, VR allows the creator of worlds to essentially be limitless given that they are the ones who introduce the constraints. The designer has to consider how much of that power they pass on to participants. Can, they for instance, change their physical appearance? Can they change physics? Can people decide to fly? Can they do magic? If magic is not a tool, then VR participants become constrained to overcoming obstacles through real world knowledge, wisdom, perhaps physical prowess.
The greatest literature tells stories of overcoming obstacles, and their writers had to back into narratives to explain how the gods chose the limits on humankind. VR designers will be making those choices, and they may be no more transparent than those who created initial conditions in every narrative since the beginning of history and literature. In many ways, limiting freedom and creating purpose is the fundamental obligation of any world creator.
Serious Insights on VR in the Press
6 Things You Need to Know about Virtual Reality on the iPhone
While 2016 has been touted as the year of VR, the experience of being in virtual worlds isn’t available to Apple users just yet. None of the major players has chosen the Macintosh as their platform of choice (often citing slow graphics and non-configurable designs). And while Samsung has embraced VR with its Gear VR complement to its phones, Apple users have had to make do with Google Cardboard and its knockoffs.
Read more at iPhoneLife.
The week’s digest
Virtual reality expert doesn’t see an easy fix for VR nausea, Network World
Serious Insights Commentary: This is an important point that needs to be addressed, and in many ways, is being too often ignored. At Six Flags Magic Mountain, if you look a the FAQ related to the VR enhanced roller coaster that uses the Samsung Gear, you will read:
Will it make me nauseous?
Because the visuals on the virtual reality screen are synched precisely with the coaster’s drops, twists and turns, there is no motion sickness as some might expect. As you see the 3D movements through your headgear, your body experiences the identical motion of the coaster, creating an unbelievably thrilling experience. Unlike watching the visuals while standing still, there should be no adverse effect. – See more at: https://www.sixflags.com/magicmountain/attractions/vr/faq#sthash.YFMX6G81.dpuf
The brain is a poorly understood output vector. We need to study the affects of VR, not dismiss.
Serious Insights Commentary: This is a positive development, creating a potential real third platform to compete with Oculus and HTC. Highly unlikely to be the last. The hardware, though, is significantly easier than the software, so the availability of software engineers who can create compelling experiences for apps and the OS will be the gating factor going forward for all platforms. Google, perhaps more so than Facebook, can tap deeper and broader into the consumer and commercial markets to create the software required to propel VR forward.
Serious Insights Commentary: Much of VR does feel like demos. Part of that is because the demos allow hardware and software houses to bring along developers. It is difficult to master a market for new ways of working or playing when those creating the software have little experience in those worlds themselves. That’s why they hype cycle remains skewed—most investments are focused on availability of useful hardware. The real issue is useful software, and most of that is guessing and testing of hypotheses, both in terms of can it be done and will anybody want it if we do it.
Serious Insights Commentary: The VR shortcomings Huang lists are hard to argue with:
- The headsets are too big and too cumbersome
- The wires must be eliminated
- The resolution isn’t good enough
- The environments aren’t “beautiful enough”
- The worlds we enter do not behave according to the laws of physics
And there are other issues, like body tracking and the expense of not just acquiring hardware, but of the cost of real estate necessary to set-up a VR space. I’m not sure its 20 years, but it probably isn’t next year. Issues that need to be overcome should not imply there isn’t value in the existing technology. Many new technologies are over large, undersized (think of the small memory footprint of early MP3 devices) and the number of wires you probably still have attached to whatever desktop computer you still own is excessive. It’s just where were are.
As for the laws of physics—that isn’t a requirement. That VR offer compelling physics that integrate with the experience is more important than just getting theoretical physics right. Who is to say that some of what is being done in VR is or isn’t violating rules that we actually don’t understand yet in the realm between quantum physics and relativity. Creating magic, is, by definition, not playing by natural laws, so I’m okay with supernatural physics. Let’s not let the limitations of technology become the limitations of imagination.
Serious Insights Commentary: Another day, another meaningless estimate. Analysts need to start thinking in terms of capabilities when they look out into the future. Will this year’s Rift be one of the 52 million, or will first gen headsets be retired by then and replaced? A bigger question: 52 million headsets by 2020 capable of doing what?
Serious Insights Commentary: Another area for continued research is the input model. Controllers don’t represent reality well, and other options, like eye tracking, tend to be too minimalist, and they are also prone to picking up false positives. This is one new eye tracking take. A place to watch going forward—an option in the toolbox, but not a definitive answer to anything yet.
The Future of Augmented Reality: The Technology That’s Changing How We See the World, Medical Device Investing News
Serious Insights Commentary: It may well be our physicians will take the lead on ushering us into the worlds of AR and VR ahead of other proposed uses. While manufacturing and construction are ideal cases, they won’t exposes that many people to AR & VR. Surgery visualized and assisted with VR and AR, that will get attention—the 51.4 million Americans who undergo a procedure (CDC) each year represent a wide cross-section of Americans. And human models are probably among the most precise available, and there is plenty of equipment to make those models even more precise, which means medical VR may well be a best first case for broad exposure.
Serious Insights Commentary: Mobile chip performance is undercutting Intel and AMD mobile platforms, creating competitive disruption that will just run around the incumbents.
Serious Insights Commentary: This is a near-term “trend” that will last as long as Oculus and Vive require a tether. It may spawn some other applications, but it will probably only be meaningful over the next couple of years— but it may also prove an important transition technology that creates more mobile high-end VR experiences.
Online learning, how tech is motivating learners to stay connected, The Financial Express
Serious Insights Commentary: Organizations need new ways to engage employees in learning, as do schools, colleges and universities. VR may be an important engagement model, but it may also be a distraction if the software isn’t ready. The big uncertainty is timing. If VR solutions software gets deployed with high expectations too soon, and it doesn’t meet those expectations, then it will likely further delay meaningful adoption. Experiment freely, but set appropriate expectations.
Serious Insights Commentary: The application of Google’s Project Tango to real-world furniture and home accessories points out key items that most VR and AR systems haven’t yet masters: environmental mapping, computer vision, depth-sensing, 3D-motion tracking and machine-learning. We need to look at VR and AR as a convergence, not an independent technology. Failures on any of the necessary components will result in suboptimal experiences.
AUGMENTED REALITY VISOR LETS FIREFIGHTERS SEE THROUGH THE SMOKE, Popular Science
Serious Insights Commentary: Augmented reality is not just about data and animation overlays, it is also about augmented human capabilities, in this case, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), a Swiss university, created a visor that lets firefighters see through smoky dark conditions using a thermal camera — in other words, allowing people who can’t normally see in infrared, see in infrared. Imagine similar technology for microwaves, radiation in nuclear plants, perhaps in conjunction with other sensors, allowing people to see natural gas leaks. AR and VR are going to hyper-attenuate human sense boundaries across a broad spectrum of input.
BRITISH JURORS CAN NOW VISIT CRIME SCENES IN VIRTUAL REALITY, Popular Science
Serious Insights Commentary: While 360º video isn’t really VR, it does offer value in many areas, including the documenting of crime scenes. That said, the current quality, and inability to bring things close, reinforces the limitations of fixed-field immersive video. For this type of video to be really useful, the image capture should take place on a number of layers and planes so those in the experience can look at detail. The current way most of these video are shot, jurors would be hard pressed to see a hairbrush on a counter, but in the future, they should be able to see hair on a hairbrush, perhaps augmented with DNA results—and if those results aren’t there, suggest that an analysis be done.
Serious Insights Commentary: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is exploring augmented reality with ProtoSpace, an application which superimposes computer-generated space vehicles and equipment over the participants field of view. As above, the models need to bring with them fully accurate relationships, and the ability to not just see things a macro-level at scale. Anyone who has ever repaired a photo with the zoom turned to 1600 knows that the detail is in the detail.
Serious Insights Commentary: It is as important to understand the fundamentals of an emerging market, as much its technology and the promise of that technology. One of the VR leaders, HTC, continues to struggle and will likely require reinvention, investment or merger in order to remain a viable leader in the VR market of the long haul.