We've been working hard putting together all of the pieces for Fitnexx's Fit4Class game. Here's a a mocap animation test we just finished with the character mascot we created for the game.
This is a project we're really excited to be working on. We're developing the software for Fitnexx's Fit4Class. Fit4Class is a Kinect game to be played in schools by K-5 students. The video below is an early graphics test for an obstacle course in the game.
Choosing Computer Hardware and Optional Hardware
As we mentioned before in Part 1, the hardware requirements for virtual reality are pretty steep. Most classrooms in both schools and corporate environments are not outfitted with adequate hardware to run VR.
As of right now, the cheapest options retail for around $800 per PC. There are a handful of laptops that are ready for VR, and the starting prices for those are at around $1150 per machine.
These are just a fraction of the options for PCs that are on the market now. They’re labeled as “Vive ready” or Oculus ready” but in reality, these machines will (in most cases) work for either headset.
You also have the option of building your own. Here are links to a couple of guides.
While there aren’t many laptops out there that can handle virtual reality right now, this article does provide some good suggestions.
The Kinect is a full body motion tracker. It’s perfect for fitness applications and other real world scenarios where physical tasks are a large part of the training experience.
The Virtuix Omni is a 360 rotational treadmill. This piece of hardware is exceptionally useful when moving through areas is a significant part of the training process.
The Leap Motion is a small device that can be mounted to a head-mounted display. The device tracks hand motions, and can be used for more realistic training when physical tasks are performed.
The advent of accessible virtual reality application is right around the corner. This technology promises a new world of opportunity, for those seeking heightened entertainment capabilities, but more importantly for businesses looking for cost-effective solutions, return on investment for updating human resource skills, better training options, and more. Let’s take a closer look at where businesses can save money and optimize operations.
New Hardware Technology - A Better Approach
In the past, to create realism in simulated job site training, companies had to invest millions of dollars into bulky, software-limited simulator hardware. In many cases, this hardware is completely stationary, which causes large expenses and/or inadequate training time when trainees are spread out nationally or globally.
Emerging affordable virtual reality hardware provides a 360 degree perspective of a digital world. It can be used in conjunction with various off-the-shelf motion tracking devices. This new hardware approach allows learners to interact with what they are seeing using their arms, hands, legs, and feet.
The best part about this hardware (aside from the super low costs)
How can these devices make training more effective?
- Many companies hold training from a specific site (headquarters). Having to fly trainees around the country or from other countries is cost-intensive and time consuming. Sending hardware or instructors+hardware is much more efficient—bringing greater profits and lower costs.
- Companies that deal with manufacturing of products can train their employees effectively the virtual way from various sites simultaneously without using resources. Digital models can be interacted within a realistic mode. This allows for a larger margin of error without waste.
- Customer service training can be carried out interactively with less stress. Employees can learn how to better interact with customers on an individual basis. This can optimize time spent on training by reducing stress—a relaxed atmosphere is conducive to learning.
- Marketing and sales training can be held virtually in a realistic way.
- Seminars and training for specific topics for all levels of employees can take place on site simultaneously with participants from all over the world. Engineers can learn complicated new job operations without leaving town—saving lots of money, bringing increased expertise to the workforce, and thus a large return on investment.
- Reduce the amount of time your money-making production equipment is "parked" for training.
Return on Investment and Cost Effectiveness
Being able to train employees for new operations, skills and job positions often costs a lot of resources and brings a questionable amount of return of investment. Investing in new technology costs less than 1000 USD per unit and can be used repeatedly by any number of employees. The amount of seminars that can be participated in virtually is limitless. The interactions that can take place between people all over the world are infinite. ROI becomes easier to measure based on the new skills and training programs undertaken, via this exciting new technology.
While many of these technologies are not yet on the market, they will be soon, and to stay competitive on the worldwide market will mean investing in new methods of doing business on an international scale. Flying and other forms of travel are expensive. The new way of communicating and learning interactively carries little risk and a lot of benefits.
The Omni takes virtual reality to an all-encompassing new place for more than just games and entertainment. Gamers can feel immersed in the games they play as the device allows them to move their feet, walk and run along with the program. With the use of Oculus Rift to view their virtual world, the Omni places the user right in the middle of the action. But this is just for starters, as there are applications beyond fun and games that can be extremely useful out there in the real world.
The Virtuix Omni looks like a round treadmill, complete with a railing. The pack for 699 USD includes a special belt and shoes to be used with it. Purchase of the Oculus Rift is separate, but necessary to complete the virtual simulation.
The Omni allows for:
- More interactive remote employee meetings
- Virtual exhibitions for on the job
- Simulations of workplaces
- Increased ease and realistic simulation of training on the job
Particularly for jobs that are more hands-on, is this last point especially relevant. Instead of training EMTs with dummies, they can run to the scene, check the pulse of their charge, load them into the ambulance, and then drive away. They can practice every aspect of their job using the Omni.
Training for a Variety of Job Fields
Some of the other fields which can benefit from practicing job scenarios using the Omni include:
- Nurses and nursing assistants
- Doctors and dentists
- Engineers and those who deal with hardware
- Production line workers
- Those who work in retail
- Clothing designers
- Office workers who need to tour new locations in advance
- Those who need to practice sales and marketing scenarios
- Those who need training speaking before large audiences
- Training motivational speaking
The Training Benefits for Using the Virtuix Omni are Plenty
Any job with a hands-on aspect can use simulation that incorporates feet and movement, as well as the viewing function (from Oculus Rift). Colleagues can demonstrate job functions from a remote location and have the feeling they are in the room together, handing each other instruments and approaching one another. Despite location restraints, they can have the sort of team building and bonding that was previously only possible in person. This will serve to speed up the training process and optimize employee efficiency and cost effectiveness—in saving money on expensive flights, for example.
Virtual reality is a powerful tool for job training that will continue to be optimized as the technology is developed and made readily available on the market. The Virtuix Omni in conjunction with the headset from Oculus Rift are forerunners for improving the on the job training experience and will surely be fixtures on educating individuals in the future.
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)
- 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
- Stable product created by a stable company and has been on the market for several years
- Single piece of hardware
- lacks clear haptic feedback
- somewhat limited when it comes accurately capturing more intricate motions
- 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
- 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)
- 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
- Lots of cords to get tangled up or tangled in
- Lots of pieces to keep up with
- Devices worn on the hands, arms and legs
- Has a lot of cords
- Boasts simple use and motion detection
- 9 axis IMU
- 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
- 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
- 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.