Locomotion in virtual reality (VR) has been something of a challenge for developers. For the most immersive experience, VR should be able to track the movement of the user, moving when they do, but this comes with several issues, though these might be solved thanks to the work of a group of researchers.
Computer scientists from Stony Brook University, Nvidia and Adobe have been working together to create a new framework that allows VR users to experience infinite walking in the virtual world, even though they are limited to a small physical space in the real world.
The framework utilises a natural function of the human eye in order to ‘hack’ the brain. The work revolves around something called the saccade. This is something that they human eye does when looking at different points in ur field of vision, such as when scanning a room of viewing a painting. These saccades occur without conscious direction and can happen several times in a second.
When a saccade is happening, the brain ignores the input coming in from the eye to avoid confusion, something called ‘saccadic suppression’. The process used by the research team takes advantage of this by using head and eye-tracking to detect when saccadic suppression is occurring and redirects the users’ walking path, making them walk in a circle without being consciously aware of it.
“In VR, we can display vast universes; however, the physical spaces in our homes and offices are much smaller,” says lead author of the work, Qi Sun, a PhD student at Stony Brook University and former research intern at Adobe Research and NVIDIA. “It’s the nature of the human eye to scan a scene by moving rapidly between points of fixation. We realized that if we rotate the virtual camera just slightly during saccades, we can redirect a user’s walking direction to simulate a larger walking space.”
The research paper produced is titled ‘Towards Virtual Reality Infinite Walking: Dynamic Saccade Redirection’ and the team will be presenting their work at SIGGRAPH 2018, which is due to take place from 12th-16th August in Vancouver, Canada.
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