The future tech of Virtual Reality

The future tech of Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is already amazing but it's far from perfect and there are still are things people would like to see in the future. In this article, I'm gonna go through some of the things including VR treadmills, haptic gloves, haptic vests and full-body tracking. Being able to physically walk around our room it's really immersive until you come up to a wall your guardian pops up to let you know you've run out of space, even if you have a warehouse he's still gonna run out of room if you try walking through an entire game.

Right now we have our thumb sticks to either teleport for smooth locomote around the environment but some companies are making VR treadmills which let you walk infinitely without ever having to worry about bumping into anything. There are two main types at the moment, with the majority using a low friction floor that requires special shoes these are mainly available for commercial applications only but “catwalk” was a consumer ready treadmill that was funded through Kickstarter back in 2018 at $700.

Unlike most, allowed users the ability to bend over, crouch and even jump thanks to the weight tether due to the stand, It seems has now gone down the commercial use just like the rest of the other is the “infinite deck” which actually functions more like a traditional treadmill with the floor moving under your feet but you can ask to move in any direction. But again this is a commercial only product.

The main issues I have with these are, first the low friction type of treadmills seemed to have you sliding your feet rather than actually walking. They're quite large expensive and ultimately they're not really built for consumers. We do have some other companies trying to find solutions to the locomotion problem they are more affordable and consumer friendly. The “Kat Loco” is a system that uses three sensors you place on your body two for each foot and one which goes on your hip. It’s available for $200 and it works by tracking the movement and your feet relative to your upper body. You can walk on the spot and you will walk in the game if you place one foot forward or to the side you move forward or you strafe. I haven't tried one myself but I know someone who has and they've had mixed results with it so far but they're working well in some game and not-so-great in others. 


You have the "cyber shoes" which fit over your existing shoes, they've got rollers underneath and then you play seated on a swivel chair you then move your feet like you're walking.

Lastly we have the “3d rudder” which is another seated device we should place on your feet and then you tilt around to forward backwards and then strafe left and right. I'm not personally a fan of these seated devices as I like to play stand-in, so “Kat loco” would be the one that I'm most interested in but like all these devices how well they're supported with games seems to be an issue with not every game working.


What about feeling things in virtual reality right now we've got motion controllers that track the movement of our hands and have some basic vibration like we found in a gamepad. This gives a little bit of feedback like when you fire a gun for example, but some companies are trying to take things to the next level they're using an exoskeleton which gives resistance to your fingers to make it feel like you actually holding something. They’ve got sensors all over the gloves which try to simulate the feeling of different surfaces or even raindrops falling on your hand. The leaders of this seemed to be the haptics gloves which look relatively lightweight unlike some while still have all the features like 130 points of feedback that can displace your skin up to two millimetres to simulate feel and motors that can apply up to four pounds of resistive force feedback per finger. They also have magnetic motion tracking give an extremely accurate tracking for your hand and each individual finger none of these are consumer ready products. They are very expensive built for the commercial market or this tech will filter down to consumer products in the future. Even the best like haptics too bulky for consumers right now and love to see haptic gloves been in the mainstream market.

 

One thing that is already available to the consumer is haptic vests there are a few available like the “woojer vest” or upcoming full suits like the “Tesla suit” but the main one that you can buy right now which has a range of options is the “B haptics tack suit”. There are a range of options from the vest only at $500 which has 40 vibration points which is designed to simulate the feeling of getting shot or punched in certain parts of your body.

You can get a haptic face cushion for your headset at 150 dollars which simulates getting shot or punched in the face. With all these devices, how well these are supported by games will make or break these add-on peripherals but I would love to try out a haptic vest. The hand and foot attachments will have the ability to use steamvr trackers to allow you to punch and kick in VR without the need for motion controllers.


This leads me nicely into the last topic which is full-body tracking. Right now we've got a couple of ways to track our full bodies in VR some people are using steam via tracking hooks. You can attach them to leave feet hip or even other peripherals like ruckus and gun stocks. They are expensive at over $100 each and as usual the amount of games wraps that the support though is quite limited.


Another  way is to use a Kinect which was a 3d camera, Microsoft developed the Xbox it may have flops as an add-on for the console market but the tech behind the Kinect is actually really good. You can use some software on the PC to do full-body tracking with very good  accuracy people use them in VR but also out of the AR for motion capture and you've got apps like live which allow you to record yourself in games like beat Sabre without the use of a green screen.

So let's summarize this article, we've got movement in VR with the use of a treadmill and although our own devices I don't think anyone's figured this one out yet especially for the consumer market. But I would be interested to check out the catalogue or lots of companies are working on haptic gloves that let you feel in VR well. They’re all very expensive a little bulky and built for the commercial market. I hope we see something in the future that's lightweight and affordable but expect it will be a long time before we do. Haptic vests are more affordable and consumer friendly but they’re still not cheap and they seem to have a limited support at the moment.

This brings me to my conclusion, I want all these things in VR but until they're released officially by the big players like Sony oculus or valve support will always be limited and they will always be expensive. I don't think we're going to see anything official within the next generation maybe in ten years or so but I think they're always gonna be a niche within a niche for the more hard-core enthusiasts with deep pockets.

 



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