The development of inside-out tracking and spatial mapping has opened up the possibility that virtual reality (VR) could be larger in scale, letting users experience truly ‘free roam’ VR without being limited by the position of tracking sensors. An experimental VR experience is trying to explore the limits of this technology.
Two developers named Jeremy Kirshbaum and Alexander Goldman have created a VR world called ‘Return to Grindelind’, a proof-of-concept prototype of a world-scale VR videogame that is roughly the size of a football field.
The experience runs on the HTC Vive Focus, the standalone headset that uses inside-out positional tracking. The story of the title features players taking the role of adventurers returned to their home town and finding it pillaged, and then searching for clues as to what happened and who is responsible.
As a prototype its is graphically fairly simplistic, but the main feature is not graphics or gameplay, but rather the ability for players to move around the VR environment in a 1:1 scale without using teleportation or smooth locomotion, instead physically walking around to explore the virtual town.
Return to Grindelind comes from Sixer VR, a VR research and prototyping studio headed up by Kirshbaum and Goldman. The project is not intended for market, but instead about experimenting with what is possible with the technology and what it is like being in a world-scale VR space.
“We found that the user experience and ‘feel’ of world-scale VR is transformatively different than conventional 6DoF. Walking tetherlessly is more than just a mechanical capability. The ability to see a far off thing and simply go toward it makes the virtual feel all the more real; a castle a half-mile away is actually a half mile away,” they wrote. “When you take off the headset, you almost feel that the virtual environment is still there, albeit invisible. In my experience, world-scale brings VR immersion to a new level.”
A video demonstration of the prototype is available to view below. For future coverage on new developments in world-scale VR, keep checking back with VRFocus.