Published on October 22nd, 2019 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Microsoft’s DreamWalker Lets you See VR cities During Real-world Walks
Sometimes a company needs to send an employee to another location but the entire effort is too costly or dangerous or time-consuming. That’s where VR steps in. Jeremy Horwitz of VentureBeat reports on new Microsoft technology that allows a VR user to walk in another location while they are physically walking in their present location. Make sense? Of course there are potential safety hazards and the tech needs to improve but it is an interesting attempt at unbridled 6 DoF (or so it seems) that could prove to be interesting.
If the idea of putting on a VR headset and walking with your vision obstructed through a real city sounds suicidal, that’s just because the technology hasn’t yet caught up with its potential — at least, that’s what researchers from Microsoft believe. A newly released video of DreamWalker shows how the company expects to turn real-world walks into VR experiences, using a combination of inside-out tracking and GPS data to avoid dangerous obstacles.
Equipped with a prototype testing rig — a backpack with a PC, VR headset, and full monitor, among other components — eight testers walked for 15 minutes through Microsoft’s campus while seeing one of three VR environments: New York City, a beach, and a frontier town. In addition to populating the scenes with multiple people, each environment uses various visual clues to steer wearers away from obstacles; for instance, the streets of Manhattan have concrete-looking blocks pop up to suggest objects that might cause injury.
he most intriguing element of the research is the real-time component — the fact that Microsoft’s inside-out tracking system and RGBD frames were used to identify actual environmental impediments such as light poles, and steer people away from them. Additionally, the system uses yellow ball markers and arrows to indicate safe routes, letting users enjoy the experience and health benefits of traveling by foot without the boredom of seeing the same old places on their daily walks.
Given the current state of Microsoft’s research — and VR in general — there’s little chance that most users will feel comfortable obscuring their actual views with VR headsets in the immediate future, even though some people have been taking their chances in open public spaces with certain Oculus Quest apps. But Microsoft says DreamWalker is exploring “a future in which people spend considerably more time in virtual reality, even during moments when they walk between locations in the real world.”