Embodied self & real-world 3D

I liked the immersive aspect, especially when I was able to view my controls or use different kinds of actuation. I also liked when I was able to see parts of myself embodied (such as my hands).

I was hyper-aware that I was in a created space. This was limiting in some way. It was like a copy of reality, which felt like reality but lacked many of its affordances. The ability to navigate the space was limited by the controls, and how the creators had designed the space. It was a little surreal and created a bit of dissonance, like my experience/ability to observe was limited by the creators of the space.

One way to exploit the embodied aspect is to add additional position sensors to your face, hands, and body, and have those map to embodied selves in the 3D context. The environment can have different opportunities to reflect those embodied selves – the view of your hands, reflection in a pool, appearance in a mirror, people’s reactions to you. I think Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and movies like District 9 would be very visceral if individuals could play those characters.

To overcome the sense of being in a created environment, virtual spaces could be constructed either entirely or relying heavily on direct mappings from physical inputs, etc. 3D cameras (though mapping these inputs into vector or 3-D objects might not exist or be advanced enough). Like navigating different real-world environments – in the deep ocean, open grasslands, different architectural landmarks etc.

[RR06] VR

I experienced two VR Games: the balloon-popping one and the North Face exploring one.

The part that I enjoyed the most and what surprised me the most about VR was the illusion of tactility. During the balloon popping game, I could actually feel tension coming from the bow, and it made me feel like I was really exercising a bit as I fended off the little helmet people. Three senses were engaged, and that was incredibly immersive–I completely forgot that I was in the basement of South Hall.

Another part I really enjoyed about VR was how it genuinely made me feel scared. After I tried out Deep Blue for a quick minute, I backed out, because I didn’t want to imagine what might be behind the dark depths, even though I knew that those were mere voxels.

There were certain bugs to the system that I found interesting. For example, you could find a spot in the North Face where you were hovering over land instead of being planted right on it. It was an interesting sensation and almost frightening sensation. Though to pure VR enthusiasts it would be considered a design flaw, I like that it gave us this affordance to experience something we would never be able to experience in real life.

One design flaw that came up was the difficulty of navigating the user interface of the balloon popping game. We didn’t know how to properly teleport to the right place to start the game. There was no natural interaction. We only got it through a trial-and-error of input sequences with the controller. This is something that should definitely be remedied with more user testing.

Popping Balloons: Affordances and Obviation

If the history of media coincides with the history of the externalization of knowledge from the body–writing freeing the body from memory; robots from labor; AI from calculation; I found myself wondering what virtual reality frees the body from. And not in the neo-luddite-esque curmudgeonly way of “wondering what we’ll lose as a culture” with the digitization of experience, but just wondering what kinds of discourses are created and what kinds are obviated with the adoption of this new technology. To take the most obvious example, in my (admittedly short) virtual experience on the Vive, I found my visual senses extended insofar as I could see things no one else could, but at the same time I found them deeply impaired–and to my own peril! The techniques of navigation I have depended on for all my life no longer quite applied, and any efforts I made at walking (though Valve has done their best to integrate movement into the system) constantly compelled the question: “are you going to run into something?” limiting my movement around the room. Maybe we could call this a kind of “externalization of mobility,” which would pose a lot of interesting questions, not the least of which is: what does civilization look like without mobility?

I think one of the other fears people have about virtual reality is that it will make humans less prone to meaningful connection. I didn’t find, to this point, that the experience was “anti-social,” despite the lack of living creatures in the apps I tried, because I spent most of the time talking to the other people in the room. But maybe this would change if I were wearing Vive-brand headphones, or whatever comes with the device.

Two experiences in the Vive to which I had the strongest reactions: inflating balloons, and looking at the dog. The balloon inflating surprised me for how real the experience felt. When I blew them up, they floated in the air in front of me; when I knocked them forward with my hand, they made the exact sound balloons make when you knock them with your hand, and (this could be my memory deceiving me) I felt as though I had even probably experienced the impact–maybe through haptics, or maybe just through the power of suggestion–I can’t remember, but that fact testifies to the quality of the experience.

The second experience I had that I found moving was realizing that I was smiling IRL at the  virtual robotic dog running around me, just as I would smile at a “real” dog running around me. I don’t know if all humans are as gullible as I am, but it’s now my suspicion that my brain would have no qualms about forming a bond with a virtual pet, provided the AI were good enough to avoid breaking the illusion.

VR is for real

In what was my first encounter with HTC Vive, there were several experiences which blew my away. In particular, the one which involved mounting a bow on the arrow really arrested my senses. I remember actually feeling the tension on the string as I arched the bow backwards. The continuous click sound and haptic feedback from the controller definitely helped. Finally, releasing the arrow also felt really close to the real thing i.e the trajectory that my arrow followed closely mirrored what it would have in the real world.

I would improve this experience by making it easier to find the spot on the bow where the bow is mounted. Currently, it seemed like there was a learning curve involved in this process. I would also add the ability to mount objects lying around you and have the user fire them as an alternative projectile. I’m guessing it’ll be fun to observe how the target would be affected when hit by different objects, for example, a stick vs a can.

The part I liked least involved reaching the castle where all the action was taking place. Doing this was particularly intuitive since it required to me interact with the interface in a different way than I interacted with the rest of it. Due to the interaction being a little incoherent, the flow broke my natural train of thought. I would change this by adding visual cues indicating how might the interaction is expected to play out, so the user isn’t left guessing.

Virtual Reality >>> Regular Reality

My favorite part of the HTC Vive experience was creating a crazy cool dress in Tiltbrush! I made it out of the duct tape brush, with fireworks coming out over the skirt, with a waveform belt and fog sleeves, a rainbow cape, and fire shoes. Pretty cool, huh? I think I probably spent 30 minutes creating this very detailed dress and I really enjoyed it! I really liked experimenting with the different textures and exploring what drawing in a 3D space felt like. I did do a lot of cool intersections and explored the 3D space. If I were to suggest a way to improve the experience would be to have a matching dress form in real life so I could prevent myself from drawing through the form and I could tell where the form ends.


My least favorite part of the HTC Vive experience was when I did the Van Gogh room. I accidentally stumbled into an “Easter Egg” room which was all dark except a table with a handwritten note from Van Gogh himself – it felt like a horror movie! I had no idea what was in the darkness and I couldn’t find my way out of the room, and Noura had to watch as I freaked out and ran around and circles. If I were to improve it, I would make it clear when you enter a different “Room” rather than just surprising you once you reach a different threshold.

Is it really Virtual Reality ?

In the course of twenty minutes, I played 2 titles on the HTC Vive – Whale simulation and Tilt Brush.They were mostly fantastic experiences, full of personality and just as varied as you might expect. One minute I was on top of a mountain throwing a stick in the distance for a robotic dog like creature to capture it and bring it back to me and I could pat it, the next I was inside a three dimensional canvas where I could paint whatever I wanted to. The Tilt Brush experience was amazing as for the first time I drew in the 3 dimensional space. Apart from being just a drawing in the 3D space, there were different brushes that added animation to the strokes, so essentially, I was creating a 3D video in realtime. I can easily see how VR paintings could be a thing of the near future where people all around the world would showcase their creations. The best part is that there is no training required to create unlike a lot of 3d video software. There are a lot of things I liked about the HTC Vive – the 110 degrees view angle, the dynamic view based on head orientation, the amazingly intuitive controllers. All these along with the Valve software help create these new experiences but I would now like to talk if these experiences can really be called Virtual Reality.

One aspect of VR that confuses me is the extent to which we are trying to simulate the reality. Right now the only sense that VR stimulates is vision and to a little extent touch, through haptic feedback. As far as i can see, the difference since flatscreens to VR headsets is the dynamic view based on head orientation. I feel that unless there are experiences that are able to stimulate all the 5 senses in a virtual world, we are far from reality. For example, when standing on top of the mountain, I would love to feel the chill and the wind, probably feel the coarse ground beneath my feet and maybe actually feel the stick that i throw or the dog when i pat it.

About the HTC Vive design, although I get to see my boundaries in the virtual world, not having any idea about the area around you can be dangerous and the wire that keeps hanging around could make someone trip and fall.

The VR Life

I was able to experience the HTC Vive this past week – my second time playing with VR. What I enjoyed the most about this experience was the fact that I was entirely immersed in this world. It reminded me of being in a Star Trek ‘holodeck’, and excited me about the future of media and entertainment.

What I liked the least (which is directly related to what I liked the most) was that I couldn’t tell when someone was near me. For example, Kimiko walked into the room while I was playing a game and I had no idea until she said my name. I instantly felt exposed and insecure. One way the design team could fix this problem is to have an icon on your screen that shows when someone is approaching you (ex: motion sensors attached to the Vive) so you aren’t entirely unprepared.

HTS vive VR response

I found the HTC’s world to be amazingly rich and spatial. By the word spatial I mean that instead of feeling that you are in a “box” with graphics, you feel actually feel a sense of gravity and its force you. I felt different in the mountaintop scene from the underwater whale scene. In the mountaintop scene, I had the sense that the ground was sloping down away from me when I was facing downhill. When I tried to follow the little doggie-bot, I was a little apprehensive of losing my balance if I didn’t take into account distributing my weight. The underwater scene was beautiful for the sense of scale – between the tiny flickers of the fish schools shimmering around, and the gigantic whale so big that you can only see parts of it at one time. The scale of the whale was an interesting decision in just how much you could experience at a given time: how big is so big? I could only see an eye, then the mouth, a fin, and then as it swooshes past me, a tail that came so close to me that I was afraid I would be knocked off my perch.

The drawing application is pretty amazing in that you felt a spatial relationship in proximity to the “painting” you create. I think one could spend hours in there, which kind of is a scary thought.

I think what I liked least about the experience is that it was still very much an enclosed environment that separates one from the actual world. I find the Mixed Reality described in the WIRED magazine extremely fascinating because it does not take one away from the “real” world that one exists in. I also like that it blurs the identification of one’s state of mind as to defining what is “reality” and what is “fiction.”

Virtual reality experience

This was my second experience with VR, and it largely  overshadowed the first one. It was awesome! I especially enjoyed being part of this fantasy world. Being able to easily switch from one world to another was incredible…

At the very beginning it took me some time to figure out how to start the application (the lab). I didn’t know I had to approach the control to the “start” button in the podium (not sure if this is the correct name) and then pull the trigger (or press the circular button, I don’t remember which one was it). However, now that I think about this it was probably the most intuitive thing to do.

Once in the lab I wanted to visit all the different places (or experiences) available. It took me a bit to realize that the best way to move around the lab was using the teleportation option. At first I wanted to move around as I would do in real life, but as you can imagine I hit a wall and some furniture.

The first thing that caught my attention in the lab was the old tree. Once I approached it I was not sure about what I had to do, but Noura told me I should grab the sphere and bring it to my face (without her help I’m not sure whether I would have figured it out by myself) I LOVED to be inside this old cabin with magical objects (in my head I was in the house of a wizard). It was great to suddenly be in this fantasy world.

The other experience that I liked a lot was visiting the solar system. Even though I have been told and read about the relative size of the planets, it was impressive to see how small the Earth is compered to the Sun, Saturn and Jupiter. I was there! I could see it. Being able to grab the planets with my hands was a nice detail, I even put Saturn on my head! While I was interacting with the planets I couldn’t help to think that  VR has a lot of potential in education.

I also liked playing with the robot-dog. Petting him, and scratching its tummy (or trying to) made me happy. I thought about my pets back in Ecuador. To be honest I didn’t think I was going to feel this kind of “connection” with a virtual entity. However, now that I reflect about this it makes me feel weird and a bit afraid.

Relate to the interaction with the dog, I think the experience could have been improved by providing some sort of haptic feedback. It was strange to pet it and feel nothing (having my hand going through it was ‘upsetting‘). Also, having a different kind of controls (like gloves) would help to make the experience more natural.

Finally, I completely agree with something that was mentioned in the article from Wired: the transition from the virtual to the real world might be difficult. I really wanted to stay in this parallel world longer. Once I took off the equipment, and realize that I was in this “boring” room, I felt disoriented and maybe even a bit sad (“I’m back to the real world”). I needed some seconds to be fully back. Although I’m well aware it might have been the excitement of the novelty, I can’t help to feel troubled. What if people actually prefer this other world? What if people get so hooked that forget about reality, and the valuable connection with real animals and people?

HTC Vive!

This was my very first chance to experience VR!! It was great!

I think the best parts of my VR experience were fairly obvious. I loved the immersiveness. The whale experience and the mountain with the caterpillar/dog fetching thing were great introductions to the interactions that are possible with the Vive.

I liked the explorative nature of this experience (akin to the explorative nature of Vivian, Andrew, and Owen’s project), where I was able to little by little uncover features. It started with basic stuff, like realizing that I was able to walk around the virtual space, crouch to see things at different angles, and lean in to see something closer up. Then I started figuring out other abilities, like the ability to teleport myself (It was great to see how naturally a desire to climb upwards arose, just like on real mountains!!) or the ability to throw a stick for the caterpillardog. Even in these scenes that didn’t have as many usage possibilities (like Tiltbrush), they were enjoyable, and even a little surreal.

I think that the biggest thing that was suboptimal about my first VR experience was the fact that I couldn’t see that well. I wore glasses that didn’t fit properly in the headset, and had to remove them. In an exit interview with Dina, I found myself repeatedly circling back to the frustration of not being able to see clearly. Next time I will definitely wear contact lenses! It would be nice as well if the lens in the headset could have a “focus” on it like a pair of binoculars or a camera, so that glasses wearers could fix their vision, although I’m not sure whether this really would work, or would be simple, or is simply portraying my total lack of understanding of how lenses work…