New Immersive Tech Series: A Look At Some Virtual Reality Input Solutions

Leap-and-Kinect-1  

I'd like to start out by saying that this post was written and scheduled to post BEFORE Valve's latest announcement (the new SteamVR hardware).  There will be another post talking about that exciting new technology soon! I just need a little time to clean up the drool puddles around here that were caused by the mention of a new Portal game demoed with it... (GLADOS is my hero)

Now that that's out of the way...

"Input is really important for virtual reality, and our approach is that anything that's important, we need to be working on," said Oculus Rift creator, Palmer Luckey.

The goal of virtual reality input methods are to achieve the look and feel of natural settings as realistically as possible. The various products, hardware and software, available to this point achieve this to varying degrees.

Here are just a few of the technologies that we're really excited about when it comes to developing training applications.

Kinect and Leap Motion Controller (on the market now)

Kinect for Windows

Pros/Features

  • Includes physical hardware
  • Motion sensing infrared
  • Input using the hands and voice
  • Has depth sensing
  • Allows the creation of specific hand gestures to affect responses
  • Interactive applications
  • Responsive
  • Stable product created by a stable company and has been on the market for several years
  • Single piece of hardware

Cons

  • lacks clear haptic feedback
  • somewhat limited when it comes accurately capturing more intricate motions

 

Leap Motion Controller

Pros/Features

  • Doesn’t replace the mouse and keyboard, but works in conjunction with them
  • Connects via USB
  • Motion sensor that can read the slightest motions
  • Can sense all 10 fingers at once
  • Takes up little space on desktop
  • Single piece of hardware

Cons

  • Doesn't replace the mouse and keyboard, but works in conjunction with them (pro/con depending on perspective)
  • Doesn’t have many applications to interact with up to now
  • Takes up little space on the desktop
  • Limits user to a much smaller space (compared with other technologies), and therefore limited in possible applications

Razer Hydra is a Thing of the Past

The now unavailable Razer Hydra was more suitable for gaming, but not for a comprehensive virtual reality experience. It was more of a controller in a traditional sense, similar to Nintendo’s Wii. Bulky and space intensive, it is now sought by gamers looking for a certain type of controller but will not be a model for future virtual reality input methods. It was a really cool idea though.

Promising Input Controllers (still in development)

Control VR

Pros/Features

  • Devices worn on chest, arms, and hands
  • Promises to allow professionals and gamers to interact with virtual reality via the hands and fingers
  • Reviews claim movements are accurately represented on screen
  • Not confined to a camera's sensor perception

Cons

  • Lots of cords to get tangled up or tangled in
  • Lots of pieces to keep up with

 

Project Perception Neuron

Pros/Features

  • Devices worn on the hands, arms and legs
  • Has a lot of cords
  • Boasts simple use and motion detection
  • 9 axis IMU

Cons

  • Lots of cords to get tangled up or tangled in
  • LOTS of pieces to keep up with
  • Company is still starting up and working out kinks

 

PrioVR

Pros/Features

  • Claims to have natural, full body interaction
  • 3 different packages offered range from 8-17 sensors
  • Senses without the use of cameras
  • Still starting up

Cons

  • Lots of pieces to keep up with

The future will belong to input devices that can accurately transform motion to digital representations, on screen, in an immersive environment, that also can give haptic feedback (such as resistance in the arms and legs, as if the user was lifting something heavy, etc). Many devices don’t need to use cameras to translate their movements through the lens, but few seem to offer haptic feedback and this is an area that developers will likely need to focus on to improve the VR experience.