When Virtual Reality Collides with Reality? - BNA iTech


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Sunday, September 30, 2018

When Virtual Reality Collides with Reality?

Cinematographer Morton Heilig patented his Sensorama Stimulator. 

A bulky virtual reality machine that showed 3D films on a personal display while pumping in smells, sounds, and the sensation of wind.

Every time you have one of those you let go of the real world a little bit more,

He says, still wild has to work on aligning the virtual world and real objects, among other things. In the virtual world, I had the sense of being taller than I really am, and when I reached out to open that first door, the knob wasn’t quite where I expected. He says the company is looking into using other motion-capturing technologies to improve tracking.

Visitors wear a virtual-reality headset and headphones, so they’re surrounded by 3-D virtual images and accompanying sound effects and music. But the 3D scenes include instructions to do things like reach out to turn a doorknob and open a door, and when you do, you find it’s not just a digital rendering of a door but a real door and doorknob that you must open and walk through to navigate from one virtual room to another.

For now, Wild’s attempt at joining the two is just a prototype: a space carved out in the middle of its office, roughly constructed with two-by-fours, divided into two rooms with that aforementioned door between them and a handful of other elements—a window, a lever, and a light switch. All these bits of reality are matched up with several virtual scenes the company has created and which run on a Samsung Gear VR headset and its accompanying smartphone, sitting within the headset.

I got a chance to check it out for myself last week. The 10-minute demo was surreal; while I knew what I was seeing and hearing wasn’t actually happening, the elements of the real world that poked through at different points made the digital environment feel surprisingly authentic and interactive. 

For instance, at one point a door was revealed in my virtual environment, and I reached out to grab an actual doorknob. I opened the door, and stepped into different room, which resembled a cabin, complete with a kitchen table onto which popcorn was popping in a rainbow-like arc from midair into a bowl—I reached out and there was really popcorn there, in a bowl, for me to snack on.

There was also a scene where I had to pull a large lever from side to side; moving it to the right or the left in reality slowed down an endless stream of red sports cars driving past me on what resembled a Tokyo street.

At another point, I turned off a light switch, apparently triggering a noisy storm outside a cabin window; wind and mist blew in my face until I walked over and pulled the window shut.

Wild makes this all work by using a bevy of sensors to gather data about where you are and what you’re doing. It uses several Kinect sensors to find your position in space, as well as sensors on the real-world objects—such as the door, from which they can draw rotational data as you open or close it.

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