In the movie Ready Player One, many fans of The OASIS are running down the street inside all of their virtual reality gear, maintaining an illusion that seems never-ending. It looks incredibly socially awkward, as anyone could imagine. Even if you are in a room with someone wearing a headset, it seems odd at first. Now imagine if you were the only one on the streets without a headset on. It would be pretty weird, and you would be wearing one within hours. This is far away from a reality right now, as it would take some technical gymnastics to get all of this done, but it is definitely a possibility in the near future.
Microsoft researchers have created something they are incredibly passionate about. They have created a walking system inside of virtual reality, and it is city scaled. That means no matter where you are inside of the city with the headset on, you are going to see a whole new world. This is called “DreamWalker” and it is actually pretty impressive. Of course, this is nowhere near an experience that could be mass-produced, it is a virtual experience that many be wanting to be a part of in the near future.
There is a 14 page PDF you can read all about it, but if you don’t have an hour to dissect all of it, we have pulled the meat of the document out below and will be feeding it below.
To summarize most of it, “we explore a future in which people spend considerably more time in virtual reality, even during moments when they walk between locations in the real world.” DreamWalker builds on earlier research while working “in unseen large-scale, uncontrolled and public areas on contiguous paths in the real-world that are void of moving vehicles.”
In the document it says that “The Windows Mixed Reality system provides inside-out tracking on a Samsung Odyssey VR headset, updating sensed 6D locations at 90 Hz. Empirically, we measured 1 m of drift over a course of just 30 m through the inside-out tracking alone. Two Intel RealSense 425 cameras provide RGB depth images, slightly angled and rotated 90 degrees to achieve a large field of view (86◦ × 98◦). We built a custom adapter for the backpack computer that converts Thunderbolt 3 to four USB 3 ports and thus supports the bandwidth required to stream both RGB depth cameras at a resolution of 640×480 (depth) and 640×480 (RGB) at 30 Hz. Finally, GPS data comes from the sensor inside a Xiaomi Mi 8 phone…”
Even for the biggest of us VR geeks, we may wonder if this is a (virtual) reality worth pursuing. There is a lot that could go wrong, but does that outweigh all that this virtual walking experience could offer? This question will not need to be answered by the masses anytime soon, but it is one that should be pondered. Soon enough, someone with enough money to invest research, time, and money into this idea will be gearing up to release it to the masses.
Is it going to be necessary to put a headset on your head even when we are in the beautiful outdoors with a chance for organic interactions? That is going to need to be answered shortly, and its a yes or no question. Not a sometimes or maybe. This could be a mass adoption, or a massive fail, and only time will tell. For more VR news and community updates, make sure to check back at VRGear.com.