“Any predictions on what the future holds for virtual reality theatre?” Draxtor Despres asked MadameThespian Underhill in episode 24 of The Drax Files : World Makers. MadameThespian gave a very interesting answer :
In the future I want motion tracking technology, so that our bodies can be used to flesh out the acting, be free from a keyboard and a mouse. Eventually the way an avatar can be manipulated will be so detailed that it will be like being there in real life, totally immersed. Twenty years from now when everyone is doing this and going ‘Oh wow isn’t this cool’, hey I’ve been doing this in a virtual space since 1997, I’m still here, I love it.
The above quote demonstrates quite a few things. The first being that virtual spaces have been around in one form or another for quite a while now. Another being that the future has a long way to go and a further point is that those who are involved in virtual worlds have different ideas on what the future may hold.
However the most relevant part of the quote as far as this blog post is concerned is to do with body tracking. I’ve raised concerns as to whether people are going to be comfortable wearing headsets, setting up motion trackers and whether people will actually embrace having their movements captured. I’m not totally alone in this view, even enthusiasts of new technologies admit that there are concerns in this area.
Ebbe Altberg was asked by Ben Gilbert of Endgadget : What is the greatest challenge that the medium of virtual reality must overcome in the next five years? Ebbe’s answer touches upon these issues of comfort :
Ease of use remains the greatest challenge. In order to truly reach the mainstream, virtual reality experiences will have to be easy, natural and comfortable to create, interact with and consume.
Ebbe also touched upon this on the Endgadget Expand panel : The Future Of VRBeyond Gaming when he admitted that after about half an hour of using the Oculus Rift he feels tired. This isn’t so much about the comfort of wearing the device, it’s more to do with frame rates and resolution in virtual experiences that were not really built with the Oculus experience in mind.
However one could imagine that having to wear headsets or get in tune with a motion sensor may well suit those who have an acting and live performance background, they are familiar with the concepts of dressing up, making eye contact and being fully aware of what their expressions may convey.
Storytelling in virtual reality is a glaring use case that goes beyond gaming and if consumers can afford to get immersed from the comfort of their own home, it’s one that could really take off. We’re in the very early stages of this here but one company who have been happily playing to their peripherals are High Fidelity and they exemplify this yet again in their latest blog post : Rock-Paper-Scissors Showdown: Using Leap Motion at High Fidelity.