"Saccades" are the phenomenon where your eyes flick momentarily from one place to another; during saccades, you don't consciously register visual input, creating tiny moments of blindness (AKA "saccadic suppression").
A group of VR researchers have taken advantage of this phenomenon to make VR users feel like they are walking in a straight line even as they are moving in large circles; during the fleeting moments of blindness, the manipulate the images seen by the wearer to subtly curve their pathways.
This allows for "infinite walking" without a treadmill or other awkward contrivance.
The effect is impressive, at least in the demo: the researchers will publish their paper soon at Siggraph 2018 in Vancouver.
The researchers ran user studies and simulations to validate their new computational system, including having participants perform game-like search and retrieval tasks. Overall, virtual camera rotation was unnoticeable to users during episodes of saccadic suppression; they could not tell that they were being automatically redirected via camera manipulation. Additionally, in testing the team's method for dynamic path planning in real-time, users were able to walk without running into walls and furniture, or moving objects like fellow VR users.
"Currently in VR, it is still difficult to deliver a completely natural walking experience to VR users," says Sun. "That is the primary motivation behind our work–to eliminate this constraint and enable fully immersive experiences in large virtual worlds."
Though mostly applicable to VR gaming, the new system could potentially be applied to other industries, including architectural design, education, and film production.
Towards Virtual Reality Infinite Walking: Dynamic Saccadic Redirection
[Qi Sun, Anjul Patney, Li-Yi Wei, Omer Shapira, Jingwan Lu, Paul Asente, Suwen Zhu, Morgan McGuire, David Luebke, Arie Kaufman/GTC 2018]
(via Four Short Links)