VR headsets are already powerful pieces of technology. Tethered VR headsets like the HTC VIVE Pro and Oculus Rift S have refresh displays that realistically recreates virtual environments. Sensors on headsets track where controllers and heads move about, recreating their movements in the virtual world near-perfectly. Standalone headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 and VIVE Focus Plus are astonishing in their own ways; the full specs of realistic VR, all bundled into one headset that can be transported as easily as a backpack. But what about the new technologies that improve VR? What role do they have in the current landscape?
This article will explore some of the most exciting and innovative technologies that are improving VR today. From hand tracking to mixed reality (MR) tools, these are the add-on additions that elevate immersive experiences to a new realm of realism. Most importantly, they also drastically improve the impact of L&D programmes by giving clients a greater impact on their investment.
Here are several areas which will see dramatic improvements over the next few years, and where the team at OneBonsai is looking at to service our clients:
1) Haptic feedback
While haptic feedback has been used for several years now, the sophistication has improved dramatically over time. The technology has already made a decisive impact on training and education. Feeling the impact of objects, or sensing them in your hand, grands a new layer of immersion that improves simulations. The effects dramatically impact the mind and lead to a more impactful training session. Haptic gloves also lend a new kind of precision for fine professions, such as surgery; we at OneBonsai created one such example of a VR Surgery Room:
On the horizon are new companies that take it a step further; instead of just using hands, why not the whole body? TESLASUIT is one example, garbing the user in an array of sensors that replicate impacts across the torso and back. The suits also come with biometrics, tracking stats and reactions to simulations for analysis.
While an immersive world is important, intractability is arguably more important. No interactions make an experience lifeless and without impact, like watching a video that does not react to your actions. Controllers are important because it gives users the ability to point, prod, and pick up their environment and, consequentially, learn new skills.
Hand-tracking is the next step in improving the user’s relationship with the virtual world. Hands provide a natural and seamless way for users to interact with the world, from picking items up with their fists or pressing buttons with their finders. Hands are much more intuitive than VR controllers, as people are used to using them for all their lives. The experience would also better replicate the real-life scenarios that other companies interact with virtually. The more that real-life is mimicked, the greater the impact of the learning session.
Another evolution of this is using Mixed Reality to incorporate physical objects. As one example, we crated a fire safety simulation where users physically lift a bottle which they carry while executing the procedure. Having real elements heighten the power of a simulation, leading to fire fighters that are better prepared to save our lives during a crisis:
3) Virtual movement
Users have access to several ways to move around in virtual spaces:
- Teleportation: Pointing towards a location, and being teleported to the selected area:
- Analogue movement: Pressing the joystick forward to then move forwards in the virtual environment;
- Room-scale: Physically walking around a movement with their own feet.
All three have pros and cons. Both teleportation and analogue movement do not mimic how humans really move around, leading to nausea and confusion. And while room-scale VR is effective, it is naturally constricted by the size of the room that participants use. If a user is based in a small London flat, for example, then room-scale VR is untenable.
In response, some companies have developed rotary movement machines which allow people to move around in a more constrained space. These ‘treadmills’ are getting better and better each year, making it easier than ever to roam freely. Even better they allow for running; something which would not be possible in most households or buildings.
The Virtuix Omni One is one example of a VR treadmill, as a new technology that improves VR. Photo credit: Virtuix Omni One.
4) Brain connectivity
Perhaps the most exciting is the ability to read the brain to keep track of how users feel during simulated training sessions. Current brain-reading technologies are not sophisticated enough to register how people are thinking and articulating them into words; such tech is beyond us, and would make most users feel uncomfortable. Instead, current tech keeps track of more broad thoughts and responses that do not infringe on their privacy while still being useful for training.
For example, Looxid Link keeps track of people’s relaxation levels and attention span during a process to measure the impact of a session. This is useful for clients who want to see the actual impact of experiences without just relying on feedback forms afterwards. In terms of consequences for the future, brain-reading technologies is one of the most far-reaching and exciting as it has ramifications on how we interact with virtual worlds. As one of the new technologies that improve VR, it is perhaps the most significant.
Companies like Neuralink generate new discussions on how we interact with technology with our minds. Some people feel uncomfortable, while others wish to embrace its potential. For businesses, the potential is clear: non-invasive brain connectivity ill be a core component of training and development, in conjunction with VR.
Looxid Link is one example of a technology that helps read minds. Photo credit: Looxid.
VR is exciting on its own. But coupled with other parallel innovations, and the impact of VR can be massive for multiple industries, practices, and experiences. Want to learn more about how OneBonsai can help? Consider contacting us today and we can help with your enquiry.