Oculus VR Working on Movement Solution Too?

As I've said numerous times before, Oculus VR's Rift headset is disruptive technology. 3DFX and its Voodoo GPU was disruptive back in the 90s, changing the gaming landscape forever by enabling hardware-accelerated true 3D. Adding GPUs to smartphones was disruptive as well, proving that mobile devices can be pocket-sized gaming machines capable of true 3D rendering. The Oculus Rift looks to change the gaming industry again.

Sure, that's a lot of talk, but you really don't fully realize what Oculus Rift brings to the table until it's planted on your face and you're running around chasing virtual butterflies fluttering over your head. You really don't feel the effects of 3D when it's rendered on a flat PC monitor or HDTV like you do with the Oculus Rift. Trees are actually there even if they're not photorealistic. Water is actually flowing at your feet even if you can't see your shoes.

However, currently the main immersion problem with virtual reality in general is that movement is limited to a gamepad and mouse/keyboard combo. Ultimately, you feel like you're seat-belted into a carnival ride, unable to move about freely on your own two feet but fully capable of directing the cart in the right direction, and looking around 360 degrees. No longer is the virtual head locked to the virtual body.

"Keyboards and mice and even gamepads – they're all kind of broken abstractions of how we actually interact with the world," Oculus VR's Palmer Luckey told TechRadar. "Keyboards and mice are superhuman interfaces that are very unintuitive. One of the things that the Rift does that's so powerful is that it lets people, anybody, even without hardcore FPS training, look around a world in a way that's natural."

The Virtuix Omni tries to eliminate the traditional peripheral input by allowing the gamer to actually walk with their feet on an omnidirectional treadmill. The platform doesn't move, but rather the user wears grooved shoes that dig into the slanted surface. Movement is picked up by a Kinect sensor and translated by software. Thus walking around in Half-Life 2 still seems a little kart-like, but at least the players feel like they're actually pushing forward using their feet instead of an analog stick.

In his interview with TechRaday, Luckey admitted that virtual reality is more than a visual input: the industry needs to rethink how gamers interact with these virtual environments. "It's not a natural interface. It's not something people can use, and it is not the best way to convince yourself you're in a virtual space," he said regarding traditional inputs. "I think we're going to need to see the same kind of revolution in input. The perfect interface is not a keyboard and mouse."

So does Luckey have a solution to the input problem? "I do, but nothing to announce," he said. Sounds like 2014 is going to be a disruptive year for wearable tech gaming in general, and we're almost there.

Read more:

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  • everygamer
    What we need is a non-invasive bio-computer interface, either a device that can detect brain signals at the head or the neck as they go out to the body. Ultimately, true VR would require a complete sensory control where our brains are being told what they see, smell, hear, touch, taste, etc. but that level of interaction at this point is only science fiction and would require invasive (surgical) methods to make happen. It will be interesting to see where the inustry goes.
  • Borisblade7
    Crap input is the main reason that kinect sux ass too. When all you do is wave arms and jump around, its cheesy and just a boring gimmick, there are not enough ways to interact with the game without some kind of buttons in a form that works with the kinect. If kinect was used in conjunction with two separate single-hand held controllers with ample buttons, movement control, with sensors to track controller position, and a proper design to help interact better then kinect could be used with this to allow for some cool and actually useful interactivity with games. The gamepad design using the analog sticks and face button combo,thats been around since the Nintendo 64 just isnt gonna cut it anymore. This same controller design is whats needed with a vr headset. Although not super innovative, the Razer Hydra was a good start but could be improved on.
  • blcskate
    If someone had a working surgical method for 100% immersion I would sign up in a heartbeat. That being said any other method has major flaws.

    A room with 100% tracking ala - something like the Kinect but tons of them. This would allow you to move around and track you full body movement. However, any game I have ever played would get annoying very fast if I have to move around a ton for long periods of time. Good exercise but can you imagine playing an MMORPG and needing to get back to town. Mounting would incur motion sickness and running on foot would literally make you very tired. Sure there would be some good uses of small amounts of gaming. That would be cool, but novel at best.

    Gamepad/Mouse - Motion sickness from jacking with your brain's movement perception.

    VR really is the coolest idea of all time and if it could be done I would gladly pay 50k for such a thing. We are long long ways away though. Right now I would love to see the following:

    Rift w/option to disable the motion tracking - for watching 2d/3d movies or playing older games not Rift specific.
    Two 1080p or better displays that are curved to take full advantage of our range of vision

    I understand the market for VR headsets is in the <$500 range, but I would love to see a higher end model (up to $2,000) for people who want to have a mobile cinema as well. Right now Sony is closer with its HMZ-T3, but that still lacks the definition and immersion that a real theater has. Heads mounted displays could be better then IMAX if done right. Since you are the only viewer and they could encompass your entire field of view.