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Three Unexpectedly Good Things VR Will Probably Cause

This is a guest post by VR developer Hugh Hancock, creator of Vive horror/RPG Left-Hand Path.

OK, at this point we can call it. VR is definitely here, it works, and it's not going away.

I was one of the first people in the UK to get the consumer version of the HTC Vive, the VR headset designed around standing up and walking around in a virtual space, not just sitting looking at it. I bought it for research rather than because I was sure it would be good - but when it arrived, it was absolutely amazing.

We're in full-on Holodeck territory here. Whether you're shooting ninjas with arrows or wandering around on the bottom of the ocean, it's incredibly immersive. And Valve's legendary "taking a dog for a walk" sim is... well, just spookily good.

So yeah. It arrived. I used it. I promptly put every project on my slate on hold and decided to focus on room-scale VR for the indefinite future.

It's that good.

Now, it's all but guaranteed that we're going to see a lot of scaremongering about VR in the near future. It's ripe for the next moral panic, and there are plenty of people looking for clicks on their articles about how VR must be banned now or it will cause the end of humanity.

So I thought I'd get in there first - with some unforseen side-effects of VR I've observed or learned about that will make the world better, not worse...

Fitter Nerds

Here's a video of one of the projects I've been experimenting with for the Vive:

It's a fairly simple idea: you're on a raft, on a river. You're holding a paddle (the VR controller, which is tracked to milimeter level by Magic Technology, and thus means you can move things in the virtual world with your hands). Stick paddle in water, paddle, repeat.

(If you happen to have a Vive, you can download it here - let me know what you think!)

It's fun. It's immersive. And most interestingly, it's rather exhausting. Not quite as much work as padding a real raft, but you can build up a sweat doing it.

Indeed, currently most of the top room-scale VR experiences combine those three things - fun, immersive, and actual exercise.

Take Hover Junkers, for example, a multiplayer competitive shooting game where you're building defences and blasting away at rivals both from your own little mini-hovercraft. Here's a video of two people playing a round of Hover Junkers .

It's genuinely very hard work. The amount of squatting you'll do challenges most people's level of physical fitness. But at the same time, it's a highly addictive, very entertaining computer game.

Recommended minimum exercise levels in the UK are approximately 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. Most of the population don't even manage to get to that.

Recommended minimum play time to get into DOTA2, one of the most popular competitive computer games available right now, is around 10 hours per week. That's a minimum. Lots of people play a lot more.

(There's a famous review of DOTA2 on Steam which simply reads "Pretty good. Didn't play much.". It has 10,000 hours of play time listed.)

So the result of gaming, particularly competitive gaming, colliding with roomscale VR? Anyone who's into competitive gaming in VR is going to be ripped.

Even those of us who mostly play single-player games will get our exercise minima and then some. One brisk walk across Azeroth in World of Warcraft (with interludes to shoot at, hack apart or run away from the wildlife) or a couple of in-game days of hard manual labour in Stardew Valley will do it.

Forget the stereotype of the overweight gamer - the top gamers of tomorrow are going to be triathelete-level fit.

Less Eyestrain

When I first acquired a VR headset, I took it to my optician to check that it wasn't going to do anything horrible to my eyes. And unexpectedly, rather than giving me a stern talking-to about time spent in front of screens, he got very excited.

It turns out that VR could be rather good for the eyes of anyone using it - much better than using a regular monitor, in many ways.

Why? The main reason is convergence. Humans are evolved to look at the horizon, scanning for prey and predators. Staring at things very close to us, not so much.

If prey's already within 20 inches of so of our face, chances are the deal's done. And if a predator's that close, well, it's a bad day for Ms Hunter-Gatherer and a good day for Captain Stripey McBigTeeth.

(As a side note, we also evolved to look at green things a lot, hence why green is the most relaxing colour for our eyes to stare at. Hence old-school green-text CRT monitors.)

Focusing on something very close to us for 8-12 hours a day is very much not what our eyes are good at, and it's starting to cause serious problems. In fact, my optician recently referred to computer vision syndrome as an "epidemic".

Enter VR.

In a VR headset, you're more or less focusing on infinity, from the point of view of convergence between your two eyes. You're also focusing considerably further away from the point of view of individual eyes, too - approximately 1.2m in the Vive, which is a lot better than 40cm on average for a computer screen.

And in VR, you can simply create any size of screen you like, and work on that. There's an app called Virtual Desktop which allows the user to project his or her usual desktop up onto a massive IMAX-sized screen, and work there.

VR: it's coming to save our eyesight.

Less Mental Illness

And finally, and arguably most exciting of all - VR looks like it's going to have some major applications in treating mental illnesses of all kinds.

Studies are already showing that virtual experiences can be of considerable help in treating paranoia.

It also has a long history of use - hampered by the cost of old-fashioned VR headsets - in treating phobias, from agoraphobia to fear of spiders to fear of flying.

One VR developer reported on Reddit - very excited - that in developing a VR app with some significant height elements, they'd managed to cure their own fear of heights

And a clinical psychotherapist recently tried out the VR chat application AltSpace VR, and immediately became very excited about the possibilities for treating social anxiety, including his or her own, using AltSpace.

This is pretty remarkable, ground-breaking stuff: arguably offering a lot of the advantages of therapies using LSD or similar drugs that alter perception, without the obvious and unpleasant side effects.

So when the inevitable "VR is causing children to KILL" headlines come along, just remember - change on this scale causes a lot of effects, both good and ill. And it's already obvious there's plenty of likely good outcomes from this particular revolution!

What do you think? Have you tried VR? Noticed any positive effects?



Regarding the combating of computer vision syndrome - I've taken to wearing +1 reading glasses, which moves a monitor at about 3 feet much further away, optically speaking.

I've had fuzziness in my distance vision since my late teens studying for A-levels (so it could also be called "reading books syndrome" or maybe "painting Warhammer models syndrome"), and the cure is to go for a walk and look at the trees, but the glasses really help it stop developing.

I did mention this to an optometrist but the idea of "preventative glasses" didn't really seem to register with them.


The other thing, specific to VR (and other forms of stereoscopy) is that I find my right eye is affected more than the left. To get a good experience in VR or at a 3D movie, you need both eyes working properly - so my right eye which would usually be slacking and letting the left eye compensate is "bullied" into working properly by VR.


Interesting! You're not the first person I've heard talk about VR as having positive effects on lazy eye. It really is surprisingly useful...


VR will also be gleefully taken up by all manner of office environments, simply because with VR headsets and noise cancelling headphones, even the dreariest open-plan office can be turned into a much nicer place.

Were I to spend my days sitting at an office chair incongruously placed under a large tree in the middle of beautifully landscaped parkland, with monitors floating magically in mid air around me, and status monitors taking the form of flowerbeds around my seat, then I dare say my general working environment would be improved immeasurably.


Sure, that sounds like a great idea until a) corporate pushes out mandatory work environment billboards to your virtual workspace, or giant statues of the founder, and b) your coworkers start materializing without warning in the middle of your virtual workspace.


A problem (as opposed to moral panic) I've seen reported fairly often is motion sickness. Some people simply can't stand any discrepancy between what their eyes and inner ears are telling them (my wife is one). One extreme case I read about recently could last no longer than 10-15 seconds in VR and then had her entire day ruined by nausea.

I suspect VR is going to be like 3D movies (which give me motion sickness and a blinding headache) - some percentage of the population will think it wonderful, others will avoid it like the plague it is for them.

AR however, that I'm looking forward to. Reality with useful added information that moves realistically, very Manfred Macx. :-)


c) Your employer utilises eye tracking and only pays you for the time you are looking at work.

  • Fitness is bad for The Economy, you communist. Everyone has a duty to be sick, it's incredibly expensive. But seriously, I understand, with computer games you can design stuff in that you wouldn't get with a real kayak, and couldn't even if there were games designed for it. Making games require physical movement is great, but you know it will get hacked around.
  • I think it's not so much focus being at a distance as it's focus changing and not always being the same. That's why children who play outdoors have better vision later in life than those who stay inside. Playing children are constantly changing the range of focus. But close focus isn't necessarily alien to our evolutional legacy. Certainly primitive hominids did close range activities as well, such as child care or crafting.
  • Again mental illness is good. Sane people are harder to control and manipulate, and they deal with impositions more effectively. Why spoil that? Maybe greater realism will make it harder to use VR for desensitization than less realistic forms. Then again, if you can desensitize someone in a realistic VR situation, teach them to kill there, then they won't have a jarring moment when they really do it and realize it's not a video game. Because it will be just like the video game they learned in.
  • 9:

    The Virtual Panopticon; a larger than life animated avatar of your manager stands behind you at all times. Some of those times, your manager is actually in it. But it's always there, moving and judging, whether she's paying attention or not, so you have to assume you're being watched in your virtual space at all times.


    The killer add-on for VR is a brain computer link so all the unpleasant exercise can be removed. Apart from the position sensor on your dick for the interactive porn VR.


    but the glasses really help it stop developing.

    I'm always suspicious about that kind of comment; it smacks too much of the "you can train your eyes to overcome short-sightedness" rubbish touted by the occasional snake-oil type trying to flog their magic exercises.

    Your eyes naturally change with time (and for that matter, with hydration levels) - my short-sightedness moved gradually from almost -3 down to -1 in my right eye over thirty years (and over -3 down to under -2 in my left). For me, the world gets fuzzy beyond arm's length, and old age is wrecking my ability to change focus. Yay for varifocal glasses.

    However, when corrected, I've consistently had 6/4 eyesight (20/15 for y'all) - apparently in common with nearly a quarter of the population. It's just that if your uncorrected vision is roughly 6/6 (20/20), then the optician isn't going to recommend any correction; your eyesight is "good enough".

    I've also been spending forty hours per working week or more, for those thirty years, at arm's length to a computer monitor. Because I've always made the effort to keep my eyesight corrected accurately, I've never had any problems whatsoever - no tired eyes, nothing. I was competing in target rifle, so I was having the optician check me every nine months or so, every year at most.

    My envy is reserved for our kids. When we took them to the optician, firstborn checked out at 20/10, both eyes, uncorrected; but he's now slipped back to 20/15, like his brother.


    Yup, this is particularly a problem with the older DK1-style headsets with slower refresh rates and no positional tracking.

    So far it looks a lot like the Vive has 99% solved the nausea problem, at least with experiences that follow the rules perfectly. I've demoed my Vive to quite a few people recently, and had a 0% nausea rate - definitely not the case with the older headsets.

    Then again, if you can desensitize someone in a realistic VR situation, teach them to kill there, then they won't have a jarring moment when they really do it and realize it's not a video game.

    Why would you ever need to take them out of the VR? (9-minute long sci-fi movie short)


    I don't think.

    Let's start out with me remembering a photo I saw recently, with a dozen or 15 mostly young people walking down a street, and NOT ONE looking at anything, much less each other, but all staring at their Annoyaphone.

    So... wearing a VR helmet while driving "but occifer, I was using it as a head-up display..." as they're led from the crash stie.

    Or trying to get their attention to come down to dinner.

    On the upside, it would certainly cut into population growth, since so many folks will be so involved in VR that they'd stay there for relationships, too, since then they could look like the movie star, and not the overweight slob they are....

    mark "cheer up, my friends said, things could be worse. So I cheered up, and, sure enough, they got worse"

    Simulator sickness studies (danah boyd's, for instance) suggest experience is an insulating factor.

    How many of those people were video gamers? :-)


    Half. The group included a 59-year-old and an 86-year-old, neither of whom are keen gamers.


    Regarding physical fitness and the raft paddling... we've done this already. The prime selling point of the Nintendo Wii was that the motion-tracking controllers enabled games that required more activity than couch-puddling.

    So we bought that, and the Wii Sports Resort and Wii Games packs, and tried them.

    Yes, they are fun. The sword-battles are particularly fun. The canoe-paddling races... not so much. Sure, you can do them without access to a pond, a canoe, and the time to get back and forth... but there's no real water splashing, and pretty soon you learn the minimum motion required to fool the game into thinking that you are doing the right thing, and that's the end of the physical fitness benefit.

    If you go head to head in a sword-fighting game, you might get more benefit out of using the motion controller. If you are doing a rafting, paddling or swimming race, pretty soon all the top players will have macros assigned to buttons: paddle hard straight, paddle left, paddle right, paddle backwards.


    Sure, there will be bad things too.

    Change tends to come with both!


    That won't work in the case of the Vive.

    This is an important point: whilst it looks like the Vive is the Wii 2.0, it's actually a completely different animal.

    The Wii uses a pretty crude accelerometer to approximate motion.

    The Vive tracks the physical motion of the controller and the head of the user, down to the milimeter level. In the game engine you're actually tracking the physical location of all three objects, not approximating.

    Even as it stands, there are very few "cheats" you can really use with the raft game. It detects the physical motion of the controller in space and uses that as part of a physics solver in the game. If the controller doesn't physically move fast in a specific direction, neither does the raft.

    For more polished experiences like Holopoint or Hover Junkers, there really aren't any cheats. You're either ducking/dodging or you're not. There's no way to macro it without using something like CheatEngine to change the contents of memory in the game - and that's a problem that eSports are already very used to dealing with.


    The office productivity applications of this are what have me most excited. I hadn't even considered that as an application, and now I want it in my hands yesterday.

    I'm constantly running up against screen real estate limits, even when I have three full sized monitors to work with. But let's do away with monitors, and simply have windows hanging in mid-air all around me. Put the stuff I only sometimes need to reference behind me. Have my main work space be a cinema-sized screen a few dozen meters away. Sitting in an ergonomic chair with noise-canceling headphones playing a soundtrack that mimics the scenic environment I've set up, and oh man I want that. I want that so much.

    Yeah, the video games look fun too (though there will need to be clever ways to get around the fact that even in room-scale it's hard to have your character run in a straight line for more than a couple meters at a time) but it's the hours and hours a day of eyestrain and office fatigue that I'm really hoping to address.

    Is that kind of stuff available now? If not, when will it be? TELL ME! I MUST HAVE IT!


    Let's start out with me remembering a photo I saw recently, with a dozen or 15 mostly young people walking down a street, and NOT ONE looking at anything, much less each other, but all staring at their Annoyaphone.

    Did you shout at them to get off your lawn, too? The current fad of sneering at people using smartphones is just a low key moral panic.


    In Star Trek, the holodecks have tactile feedback.

    I suspect that fencing is NOT going to be one of the killer apps for the Vive; instead, fighting games are going to focus heavily on projectile weaponry. Or at least feature opponents that dodge rather than parry.


    The US Army has been using VR as part of PTSD therapy for several years. One method is to recreate a traumatic incident, with the soldier running through the scenario while talking it out with a therapist.


    One issue with current VR is that it isn't convincingly visually realistic. There is currently nothing remotely close to a (visual) VR experience not easily distinguished from real-life walking in a place with plants and insects and other animals (including people). Even VR of artificial human real-life spaces such as buildings is not convincing, though it can be closer, at least without nearby virtual people. Has anyone seen a convincing VR portrayal of a single plant, allowing a little zoom-in of the sort that botanists do? (Skipping the hand lens to make it easier.)

    Suspension of disbelief is still possible of course, especially if the virtual environment has other compelling virtues.


    One issue with current VR is that it isn't convincingly visually realistic.

    Visual fidelity is overrated. Have you ever cried at a Pixar film? Have you ever been engrossed in a video game? Has someone ever told you a story that you could see in your head?

    Our brain can do a lot of heavy lifting to cover the fact that it's not real life. When I was in high school, my main game was Day of Defeat, a mod of the original Half-Life. Go look at screenshots for it now: blocky models with muddy textures, very turn of the century stuff. The thing I loved to do most in that game was break through the enemy's front line and rampage through their rear areas, picking off stragglers and capping unguarded objective points before disappearing again. It was a high risk, high reward style of play, and after a good run I would have to sit in the respawn lobby for a few moments while I waited for the shakes to pass.

    It doesn't need to be photo-realistic to have an impact.


    Issue? What applications do you have in mind that would require convincing realism? The only ones that spring to my mind are brainwashing and fraud.

    Entertainment, training, and even scholarly simulations generally work perfectly fine even if the visual display is clearly an approximation.


    One anecdotal report of reduced pain in wound packing when using VR. It might help the "imagine you are somewhere nice with something nice happening" approach.


    Apparently this article has come true. I can see some rather lucrative human resource training applications. You've probably heard of VR simulation being used to train people- most usually in dangerous activities and professions like pilots, soldiers and surgeons (see here. They use them primarily in those domains because up to now fast, accurate, and detailed virtual environments have also been expensive, and therefore reserved only for high risk situations in which people's lives are at stake. But if this is getting down to the public consumer market, then the market for HR VR training just got a whole lot larger.

    Basically, any job that has to follow detailed procedures is a good candidate for inexpensive simulation training. The more accurate the visual presentation, the easier the transfer of skills to the actual environment will be. I see this including most skilled labor position, but particularly in retail.

    I'm an HR consultant myself, I've designed and delivered a lot of corporate-style training, and based on my experience anyone who could design a "machinima-style" training simulator for, say, Home Depot or Rite-Aid pharmacies or even Starbucks will have a money-maker (not so much MacDonald's and the like- their procedures are already so simplified and automated that VR would be redundant). Seriously, if I had any "skillz" I might try my hand at something like this myself. As it is, I'll probably have to watch someone else copyright the idea. Oh well.


    Exploring empathy? I can imagine that experiencing another person's wildly different daily life could have a profound effect on your worldview/prejudices/biases... whatever you want to call it.

    The point is we can't possibly know where this is heading but it's the merest hint of the destination.

    Though i am surprised only one person so far has mentioned porn - that's your killer app right there. Though i believe such things are already in the wild.


    I'm actually thinking that AR, and 'mixed reality' as they've started to call it, will be more of the player than straight VR. Much easier to ground the reality and not have the dislocation that VR brings.

    The main unexpected benefit as far as I can see will be the switch from "looking down, hunched over, looking in" UX of smartphones (and even laptops), to the "looking up, standing up, looking out" of AR. It will have a significant impact on the mindset that the UX engenders.

    It will also play hell with 'open plan deskland' that companies feel is acceptable for staff.


    "Visual fidelity is overrated. Have you ever cried at a Pixar film? Have you ever been engrossed in a video game?" Fair points. I've spent ghastly amounts of time in mmorpg games (not recently), notably the first Everquest. In these, the fact that other player characters were controlled by people made it interesting, not the graphics. People developed tactics over time, and shared them. (Raid tactics, bard kiting, pulling, etc) Behaviours like twinking (term appropriated by gaming) developed quickly. It was all about the players, interacting with a world complicated enough that the game designers and testers couldn't anticipate how it would unfold.

    Antistone @26: What applications do you have in mind that would require convincing realism? The only ones that spring to my mind are brainwashing and fraud. Where one wants the experience of reality for some reason, with the background comfort of knowing that it is unreal and therefore safe. Would VR treatment for phobias work if the visual depictions of the feared thing were visibly fake? Not sure. Also, VR of natural environments, maybe subtly augmented a little to be more interesting than reality itself, could be very soothing.


    It does not take a virtual reality to treat phobias. Ordinary sitting in front of the screen interactions can do it. Unfortunately, I don't have any studies, only anecdote.

    I used to have a quite silly fear of spiders. I'd see one, jump, and move away. I'd get rid spiders by catching them in a cup or a bowl (at all times I had to have plastic or glass between me and the spider), and throwing them outside. This wasn't motivated by a deep desire not to harm a living creature; I couldn't stand to touch them—not even to squash them. Not even with my foot.

    Then several years ago I started playing Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO). The producers of that game must have gotten a great deal on their spider animations and physics because you fought spiders constantly. You fought spiders in the very first adventure you went on. And you fought various spider monsters over and over and over. Small ones, big ones, giant fucking spiders. Spiders everywhere. When you got high enough level there was even a raid where you fought Lloth the Demon Queen of Spiders in the D&D mythos (which will someday show up in esoteric texts when it gets old enough, because... people).

    By the time you worked a character up to the max level in the game (28 when I stopped playing), you would have killed thousands of spiders. That is not an exaggeration.

    After playing for a few years, I realized my phobia of spiders had just sort of faded away. Today when I see one, I just ignore it. (And stay out of Australia.)

    My point being, that if a person-in-front-of-a-screen interaction can make such difference like that, I can believe that even fairly unsophisticated VR setups could be—well, potentially quite scary—in their psychological effects.

    I guess we will all see...


    "Existenz" Where does the VR end & the "real" world begin? ( Its a film, available on DVD - recommended )


    And ... NOBODY AT ALL has yet mentioned ... virtual SEX (yes sex) at all yet, have they? I can see all the religious nutters going overboard on that one, 'cause rule 34 will definitely cut into this one.

    More generally, I assume that the V-environments will only get much better over time, of course. Oh & no-one has picked up on the even scarier version of the corporate oversight dystopias, by "The State" or worst of all, "The Religion" using pre-set VR environments to completely & utterly brainwashing their followers & slaves.


    Grammar FAIL - sorry - got lost inside my own editing


    "And ... NOBODY AT ALL has yet mentioned ... virtual SEX (yes sex) at all yet, have they?"

    Yes - me. But it is so obvious that it will be one of the major drivers of VR it's not worth mentioning


    "The current fad of sneering at people using smartphones is just a low key moral panic."

    No it isn't. I have walking into people twice on crowded streets because the retards just stopped dead to look at their phone. Not to mention the numerous times I have had to push past somebody acting as a slow moving pavement blocker doing same.


    Yes, that's something that took me totally by surprise too! Even if you ignore gaming and porn, VR STILL has massive, world-changing-for-the-better applications.

    There are a couple of apps that do things very close to what you want.

    Virtual Desktop is the closest. It's usable in the Vive - the resolution limitations are there but they're not a dealbreaker.

    Currently it doesn't let you place windows arbitrarily in 3D space, but mimics a conventional desktop - I suspect that's an OS-level limitation.

    However, it certainly will let you sit in a lovely backdrop working on a phenomenally massive screen. My current setup has me on the deck of a sailing ship (static image but that's just because I haven't modeled it yet) with a 120-degree IMAX-sized screen to work on.

    And better software yet will come!

    (Also, software on mobile devices will come. By December I'm 50% expecting to be able to sit on a long-haul flight working on a gigantic screen. The GearVR - mobile VR headset - is already an amazing accessory for flights just because it removes the poky 6-inch LCD screen and replaces it with, again, your own private IMAX theater...)


    Yeah, the empathy effects are fascinating and massive - and we've only begun looking into them. I believe a number of major charities are funding VR development for just that reason, though.

    And porn - yeah, porn's going to be huge. Although it'll really need lightfield tech to take off properly, so that the models can appear real rather than CGI, but positional tracking is possible.

    (Why am I insisting that this application and this one alone needs realism? Because budget. Really high-quality CGI models are expensive to develop, and porn tends to be made on a comparative shoestring and demand novelty. I don't think even the big players like could afford to commission AAA-level CGI characters too often.)


    I'm dubious about major physical fitness benefits from VR.

    Sure, VR can require more activity than just being hunched over a keyboard. But so did the Nintendo Wii. Game developers rapidly found out that encouraging people to make vigorous arm movements while playing computer games resulted in crunching impacts with furniture, TV sets, and other people.

    And VR (not AR) makes it even worse by blocking off exterior vision. Every presenter in a current day VR lab, theatre, demo system knows that part of the job is to stop people enthralled by the experience from accidentally crashing into things.

    By and large the people who enjoy exercising as a recreational activity already find a way to do so. A VR game that requires top players to be triathlete-level fit isn't going to have many players.


    That's the sort of thing I've been wanting from VR/AR ever since I first came across those 320x480 video goggles...

    Arbitrarily large monitors hanging in space - or just windowed programs - IRC here, telegram/skype/etc there, music player there, browser windows (with depth-stacked tabs?) front and center.

    Gaze tracking for a cursor? or keep it independent with a (semi-)virtual mouse? or if the registration's good enough, have it track a physical keyboard and mouse, so you can look down and see yourself typing?

    Another thing that comes to mind is ergonomics - no more need to crane your neck to look down at a none-too-high screen, if you can put your displays anywhere you want.


    I'm a crap artist, but I love them and all their work put towards translating words and ideas into images.

    I can't imagine an artist seeing stuff like that google 3d drawing program and not getting a raging paint-on (yes, exactly what you're thinking) over it.

    Ah, found it, Tilt Brush:

    As for the use of imagination, the only game I play anymore is dwarf fortress, and the imagination gets used to doing the work needed to turn a version of CP 437 into a world with active towns, chaotic battles, and serene woodlands. Though it is possible to peek into a game like df with vr too, apparently it has support for the Rift/Cardboard/I assume Vive is roughly the same!


    Other pastimes that require top players to be extremely fit:

    • MMA (practised by approximately 1 million people)
    • Marathon running (1.5 million people in the US alone)
    • Soccer (270 million players worldwide)

    Doesn't seem like that's a huge limiting factor in people wanting to compete.

    And of the experiences currently available for the Vive, almost all the most popular ones require considerable physical exertion and, yes, vigorous arm movements. Of approximately 25k Vive users at the moment:

    • 10k of them play Hover Junkers
    • 13k play Space Pirate Trainer (ducking, weaving, shooting)
    • 8k play Holopoint.
    • 5k play Vanishing Realms (RPG featuring vigorous arm motions and rapid dodging).

    Now, maybe the crossover between early-adopters of a new VR headset and very fit exercise-prone people was close to 100%. But I doubt it. And the numerous comments in /r/Vive saying "I've never done this much exercise before in my life" rather imply that not everyone who bought one was an exercise junkie. But they all (or at least, approx. 50% - 60% of them) seem to be enjoying comparatively athletic games.


    It's much, MUCH WORSE than that The link takes you to an RAIB report where a dozy teenager, on 'phone, with earplugs in wandered out into the path of a train, because the (redacted) wasn't paying attention to the real world. Messy, very messy.


    I'm sure that somewhere, someone drowned from drinking too much water. Anecdotal accounts of the insightfully challenged removing themselves from the gene pool are entertaining, but not too much should be read into them.


    Actually yes, I know somebody who works on this. However I don't want to connect my comments publicly to my meatspace identity, nor use OGH's comment section for advertising, so is there any way I can contact you directly if you're interested?


    I'd also be very interested to hear about this. Feel free to email nomad AT strangecompany DOT org or Tweet @hughhancock .


    Writing you an email. Anybody else interested best ask Hugh to forward it.


    Exercise VR ... stroke and accident victims to track and monitor their physio and recovery. This would need considerable feedback and monitoring though.

    Exercise ... anyone ... the unit would have to be super cheap/affordable because the people most likely to benefit from this would probably not be able to afford it. Suggest that NIH, NHS, etc. consider clinical studies to evaluate such VR among a variety of different human subgroups.

    VR/visual tracking/eye sight ... surprised that the vision improved because I thought that the brain (visual cortex and all) usually changed the perceived view to normalize it. Another candidate for clinical study?

    Meditation ... probably the ideal application for VR ... get away from everything and relax/focus. Could help people with sleep issues too.

    Cloud or personal server/computer ... where exactly is all of this super duper VR being kept and run? I've been experiencing major Internet (dis-/un-)connectivity for most of this week. If this VR is supposed to be pumped out from some vast cloud, what does this mean for everyone else? How much additional Internet infrastructure will we need?


    Also, if patients with senile dementia could create their inner realities using VR and if their families and caregivers could look at/access this VR, it might make it easier for both patients and family/caregivers.


    You just provided the argument for why VR is totally unnecessary. It needs a killer ap that requires all that fidelity and sensory immersion. Until then Minecraft will do.


    Very good point on the affordability.

    The PLaystation VR set is probably the best hope in the near future for mass VR takeup, on the principle that a lot more people can afford a PS4 than a high-end PC.

    Unless, of course, Google's VR headset - coming soon - turns out to be remarkably affordable.

    Currently there's no real cloud element to VR. Latency's too high. Bear in mind that in VR, 25ms latency is unacceptable.


    I disagree about there being no useful cloud element. Obviously you want to keep the rendering local but a lot of the portable devices have limited storage so it may well make sense to stream in environments etc.

    Multi resolution streamable 3D representations are a fairly mature tech so I would be surprised if nobody is doing it.


    I'm sure that somewhere, someone drowned from drinking too much water.

    Drowned, no. Different mechanism. Died of water intoxication? Surprisingly common:


    My kid does this alot, playing games.


    Contending that of two people in a collision the one standing still is the one not paying attention seems a bit of a stretch...


    Also, pushing past people rather than walking around them invites retribution.


    Go & look at the link I provided in #44 (!) euw.


    Really? But then actually getting in someone's way invites being bumped into. Another simple example that has happened to me is waiting to get off a train, I find that when the doors open the people wanting to get on have formed a wall around the doorway. It's much more fun and quicker to shoulder my way through than to cough politely and enquire "Can someone please get out of my way" and wait until one of the waiting people actually decides to get out of my way.

    There's a sort of vague social contract that goes, I won't get in your way and you won't get in mine, which erratic behaviour caused by too much attention paid to your phone, breaks.


    I have rarely observed that kind of behaviour as even the most gormless of phone obsessives generally knows when they are standing in a train doorway at a stop.

    Route finding on the fly is one of those things human brains are fairly good at. I find applying it rather than going in a straight line avoids all sorts of awkwardness.


    Yeah that's messy, but teenagers are pretty good at getting themselves killed. When I was a kid fucking with trains & traffic was quite common, as was not surviving.

    One case of someone absent mindedly walking into the path of one barely registers.


    How do the goggles adapt for people whose eyes just don't converge? My right eye is moderately near-sighted, while my left eye just needs adjustment for reading (since I reached that age range). As far as I can tell, I've never really had stereoscopic vision even during the 50 years I have worn glasses. If I try to focus on something too close without my glasses, my right eye shuts down and wanders to the right.

    Stereoscopic images always look fake. Early 3d videos were so painful to look at that I could not keep my eyes open in their presence, and experienced major headaches. Modern 3d seems to be more tolerable -- I was able to enjoy "Gravity" in a 3d theater, but it still looked fake, but that is the only time I have been in a 3d theater. (Why pay the premium for something that will look fake and might be painful?)


    The more important Hugh wrote: Other pastimes that require top players to be extremely fit...

    By your own numbers, marathon runners are 0.0047 or 0.5% of the US population. Soccer players are more common, 0.038 or 3.8% of the world population. Not encouraging for anyone considering whether to fund a physically active VR game.

    I don't dispute that VR games can encourage exercise. Ingress for example encourages walking around.

    Getting sweaty and exhausted is not currently a side effect of computer gaming. The social context for most computer games (on the bus, hanging with friends) would make it undesirable. And the real hard core gamers want to play for hours on end, which again they won't be able to do if they're physically drained.

    Games that don't require effort have always had more participants than those that do - compare marathon running to bridge or even D&D. I don't thik VR will be any different.


    I'm personally skeptical of the VR office environment will catch on more than just a niche. First, let me be a pendant and point out a lot of the applications for a VR environment mentioned are actually AR.

    VR office spaces share the same problems that paperless offices and the work-from-home internet connected offices faced.

  • Just like with movie theaters and cubicles, a lot of people like the traditional office (myself included). A lot of the people are managers who want to control what their employees see on the VR. There will be the occasional avatar over the shoulders, but most managers will view VR as a way for employees to read Facebook all day, especially since they CAN'T look over the shoulder. I realize many of you will point out technical solutions to the problems I mentioned, but for many managers the simpler solution is still ban them.

  • Fundamentally, how will a VR headset improve productivity? The answer to that question is found on an industry-by-industry basis. Do any of you know what bankers do in their day-to-day jobs sufficiently well enough to successfully answer that question?

  • People are social animals. They need cues in body language which would require beyond-uncanny-valley realism. VR conferences will not solve this. Just like typing on a screen/tablets haven't replaced the need for paper. Likewise, why Slack or e-mail hasn't removed the need for office space as hoped/feared. If anything, VR might further increase the concentration, thus raising rents on office space in NY,London,SF,etc.

  • 65:

    "Contending that of two people in a collision the one standing still is the one not paying attention seems a bit of a stretch..."

    Not if they are standing still looking at their phone in the middle of a pavement like this:


    "Also, pushing past people rather than walking around them invites retribution."

    LOL! You obviously don't live in a place where pushing past people is common. They are welcome to try the retribution thing:


    What on earth made you think I was going to try anything? I look where I am going so I don't have to.

    I merely pointed out that NOT looking where you are going and barging past people makes YOU the asshole.


    I didn't bother to look at the other link (no fb), but I imagine it is some sort of claim to be a ninja. Well done.


    I am reminded of a story a friend wrote some 8 years, ago, "Meaties".

    “What was it?” Patrice asked, from under what appeared to be a squid. “Bunch of noisy Meaties out in the Outside street. Having a protest or something.”
    Story still reads well; a near future story about people who choose to spend most of their time in VR because it's better than real.


    When İ, was a kid, İ used to walk to school while listening tona Sony Walkman with an (invariably SF) book in my hand.

    I am sure a lot of people thought I was a sad geek. :)

    Meanwhile, that desktop VR solution? I want a linux compatible version YESTERDAY! Wallet open, card out!


    Get a linux compatible graphics card with lots of texture memory and you should be good.

    The linux version of the software will be free, infinitely configurable and unusable out of the box because the defaults are set for some piece of obscure gear that nobody but the developer owns.


    "The RAIB has been unable to establish whether her personal music device or her smartphone were in use at the time of the accident, or whether she was wearing earphones"


    "...but I imagine it is some sort of claim to be a ninja. Well done."

    It's a claim to be a 90kg martial arts teacher with 30 years of experience. Well done for spotting it.


    I once saw someone walk into and trip over a low railing into gravel while staring fixedly at their smartphone screen. It didn't help that it was dark and their regular night vision was wiped out by the brightly glowing screen.

    After they had face-planted, their first panicked reaction was to scuttle after the phone which they had of course dropped. Their second reaction was to examine it carefully for damage. Their third action was to wipe blood from their skinned hands off the screen.

    Sweet Meteor of Death, where are you?


    "I'm sure that somewhere, someone drowned from drinking too much water. "

    Exactly : it's called water intoxication / water poisoning.

    (never underestimate the number of ways the universe is out to get you)


    Re: ' .... but most managers will view VR as a way for employees to read Facebook all day,'

    Two day-job experiences ...

    New hire who almost immediately upon getting set up with company laptop & monitors logged onto personal SM account therefore missed a meeting. Was un-hired pretty soon afterwards.

    A bit later, Corp decided that having SM presence was good for bottom line and asked (really, really insistently) that all employees post corp-related info on their SM pages. Employees without any pre-existing SM presence were strongly encouraged to open accounts.

    Of the two, the latter really bothers me.


    The work-from-home Internet connected office works fine. We call it "off-shoring" now.

    Which is a problem here, too: if your work can be done fully in VR, you're a candidate to be replaced by someone overseas with lower costs willing to underbid you, or (perhaps more excitingly) by an AI.


    Hugh, Re: "computer vision syndrome"

    You need to get a more up-to-date optician. VR ain't gonna help.

    The "close-work causes near-sightedness" myth has been debunked for years. And more debunked each time a new large-scale study is done in a new country.

    The issue is light. You need exposure to something like 5000 lux (mildly overcast day) or more for an hour or three per day. Mainly during childhood. Even brightly lit classrooms are barely 500 lux; and homes even less, more like 150 Lux.

    So go outside, kids... but while outside feel free to stare at your tablet or book, or paint tiny figurines, or whatever close-work you normally get yelled at over. You can even sit in the shade. Hell, on a bright day, you can even wear sunglasses. Light levels are enough that indirect sunlight through tinted lenses is more than we get in a brightly lit room.

    Several, Re: VR nausea.

    As head-tracking has improved, reports of nausea have decreased. Both speed/accuracy of tracking, but importantly the physical tracking through space (not just via tilt sensors).

    Normal motion sickness will obviously persist for those so prone; especially since VR is going to be used for things you wouldn't/couldn't do in real life. Even paddling an actual raft would make some people queasy.


    April_D @20: "have windows hanging in mid-air all around me. Put the stuff I only sometimes need to reference behind me. Have my main work space be a cinema-sized screen a few dozen meters away. Sitting in an ergonomic chair"

    You have infinite virtual space and an unlimited palette of visual metaphors, and all you can come up with is "sitting in a chair looking at a big screen, with a reference shelf behind me"?


    No it isn't. I have walking into people twice on crowded streets because the retards just stopped dead to look at their phone.

    Have you considered watching where you're going so you don't run into stationary people? It's not that hard, is it?


    Yeah, you can email me at the contact link at my website:


    It is in London at rush hour where everyone is packed almost shoulder to shoulder and all walking the same speed. Except for the retard who decides to stop in the middle of the flow and look at their phone. And another I saw today, in the middle of crowded stairs at the railways station (walking down) who suddenly stops dead with a phone in their hand.


    Oh man. That sounds so cool. I've got a budget restriction that I'm working with, and I need to focus down some credit card debt before I can get another big toy, but by this time next year I will probably have a VR headset I think. ~$800 is a lot to spend on a gaming accessory, but if I'm spending it on a productivity tool, well....


    You have infinite virtual space and an unlimited palette of visual metaphors, and all you can come up with is "sitting in a chair looking at a big screen, with a reference shelf behind me"?



    To be fair a bog standard WIMP interface embedded in 3D space would be one of the first applications as it allows you to immediately bring existing productivity apps in rather than reinvent them all.

    What you do for step 2 is wide open though.


    How about Virtual Tourism? Stand atop an omni-directional treadmill and you can go wandering around the streets of any foreign city or locale. Connect it to a remotely controlled mobile cam and you can do it in real time. I'd really go for that!


    And another I saw today, in the middle of crowded stairs at the railways station (walking down) who suddenly stops dead with a phone in their hand.

    Oh that's awful. How did you survive?


    Complaining on the internet heals all wounds. Except ones inflicted by being pushed down the stairs by a ninja in a hurry.


    Virtual tourism is fun, but another example where it will work just as well without the treadmill for exercise. And the treadmill will be far more expensive than the headset.

    Plus, a decade ago I helped teach virtual reality development at uni. Part of my informal guidance was never be an alpha or beta tester for any VR gadget which includes the words "force feedback", synonyms such as "haptic", or any mention of embedded motors.


    Part of my informal guidance was never be an alpha or beta tester for any VR gadget which includes the words "force feedback", synonyms such as "haptic", or any mention of embedded motors.

    So no teledildonics for you, then?


    I am up for the immersion bit. With my gaming habits I will become like a Greek God from lumping all those Guns & Ammo round in rough terrain at running speed.

    Smashing an enchanted mace into many virtual faces will give me good wrists and triceps too.


    Remember when everyone did a DooM level of their office?

    Well, now everyone will do it in VR and at some point the VR will be so good and immersive that someone will make a simple mistake, take their gun collection to the physical office instead of the real one and probably beat the rap!


    "the retard who decides to stop in the middle of the flow and look at their phone. And another I saw today, in the middle of crowded stairs at the railways station (walking down) who suddenly stops dead with a phone in their hand."

    If they didn't have a phone, they'd be doing exactly the same thing. Some people just have no situational awareness, or consideration.

    I see people do this all the time, but hardly ever does it have anything to do with phones. Nor young people. People walking in fast flowing foot-traffic who just stop to look at... something, oblivious to anyone around them. People shopping together in busy stores who stop, side-by-side, blocking the aisle, while one of them looks at a shelf. Small groups of people in malls, who somehow manage to block an entire 15ft wide path. People who stand on escalators, right in the middle, hands on both rails. (Or who put their bags down next to them... on a one-floor escalator. In spite of clearly not being very old ladies with mobility issues.)

    People who do all of those things, even when they do let someone get around them, then immediately go back to being in the way. Worse, those who get huffy when someone has to repeat, five or six times at slowly increasing volume, "Excuse me", and ends up shouting it in their ear to get their attention (or gives up and pushes past.)

    People who drive below the speed limit in a passing lane, next to another vehicle doing the same speed. People on a single lane road who are driving slowly, who have a convoy of vehicles behind them, open road in front of them, but will not even consider pulling to the side for a minute or two every half hour or so. People in small, light cars who merge in front of large trucks and then immediately brake sharply to turn. Old people on mobility scooters who run straight off the footpath onto the road across unmarked intersections without pausing or looking for traffic.

    [I get more annoyed by people complaining about other people on phones than I do about people on phones. Especially people who complain about other people talking on their phone in public, because apparently talking in public is some kind of sin. Or tut-tutting at people sitting in a waiting-room looking at their phones, like animals.]


    I sometimes wonder how the people who stop dead like that don't end up getting pushed down the steps when the people behind don't stop in time.

    It's the problem when traffic is moving at or beyond capacity — you go from it needing two parties both not taking notice of their surroundings to cause a collision to it only needing one. In those cases, there's a tendency for the person who was taking care to get aggrieved.

    (The alternative is to avoid such congestion in the first place. It's a lot easier to chill when not in the pressure cooker.)


    "To be fair a bog standard WIMP interface embedded in 3D space would be one of the first applications as it allows you to immediately bring existing productivity apps in rather than reinvent them all."

    I know. I was just amused at someone wantingly describing where I'm sitting now. Comfy chair, screen in front, reference shelf behind, secondary work scattered around me. Except ... {shiver} ... virtual.

    "What you do for step 2 is wide open though."

    The potential is there, but I don't have much hope for people creating useful VR work environments because of the way they haven't taken advantage of existing tech. Games, yes. Work, no.

    Some years back, there was portable virtual keyboard device with an infra-red system that effectively turned any flat surface into a touch display. The touch-detection resolution was terrible, but as long as the displayed keyboard was course enough, it worked.

    Around the same time, short-throw digital projectors started getting small and cheap enough that some prototype phones included a projector.

    Putting the two together, I wanted to hang a projector off my monitor that threw a control panel onto the desk, in the space around my keyboard. Even if the touch-resolution of the IR-scanner isn't enough for fine detail work, it's more than enough for buttons and selectors. Clearing your actual screen space for detail work (without having to remember a hundred keyboard shortcuts, and with visual feedback.) Plus a bunch of notification screens for secondary apps.

    Didn't happen.

    [For April's sake, you'll note my imagination is stretching as far as "you know the toolbars on your screen? Imagine those on your desk! Right?" But I expected that devs and UX designers could come up with more innovating control-panel metaphors. Touch-driven business apps suggest I was wrong about that too.]

    Same thing when smartphones became ubiquitous, especially the iPhone and the entire Jobs "it just works" nonsense, plus Microsoft struggling to stay relevant, I assumed that both would eventually include a way of automagically interfacing your phone with your computer and using it as a second display and third input device. Importantly, one which didn't steal focus from the application on the main screen. Ie, not just a touchscreen-mouse, but an entirely new I/O focus. It just seemed so damn obvious. iPad and copycat tablets made it even more obvious.

    Nearly a decade after the first iPhone, six years after iPad, four years after MS-Surface, and the closest I've seen are Android apps that let you use your phone/tablet in place of a mouse. w00t.


    To avoid derailing:

    So what are the visual/physical metaphors that would suit VR work environments?

    Obviously oversized faux touch-displays. But beyond that.

    I could see paint/design/modelling software turning the on-screen metaphors back into their original physical counterparts, but retaining the customisability of the virtual. A row of brushes/chisels, but "elastic" so that you can morph the shape with a pinch or stretch; modular, so that you can combine them for effects. Physical selection-frames and layers.

    Without finger-tip sensing, VR doesn't suit writing/WP/DTP software. And switching back and forth between keyboard and VR control-sticks would be annoying. AR, maybe. Still, it would be nice to be able to scatter documents and pages around you, physically dragging and dropping, cutting'n'pasting.

    For conventional business software, accounting, ERP, CRM, etc, the only advantage seems to be having a larger work area. (Or a nicer cubical.)

    It seems obvious for product websites to have a 3d representation of what you are looking at. But websites that have tried pseudo-3d have been universally awful. I doubt they will improve their record just because the customers have VR.

    Likewise, I can picture VR sys-admin tools. But that just seems like Hollywood wankery. Actual admins still use CLIs and text editors. If they avoid GUIs, why would they want VR?


    Anything that requires a user to move their arms around to do cut/paste/rotate etc is going to be a total PITA after a short time, and a source of litigation for RSI

    Likewise, I can picture VR sys-admin tools. But that just seems like Hollywood wankery. Actual admins still use CLIs and text editors. If they avoid GUIs, why would they want VR?

    I can't see what VR would give a sysadmin that peep couldn't. Though it has been a while since I spent a lot of time with sysadmins...


    Moving your arms around in free space, yes. But VR means you can turn whatever table is in the room into a huge touch display...


    I'm another person who's interested in the inclusive design / accessibility issues for VR. As somebody without binocular 3D every VR box I've tried has just given me a headache. I'm going to be interested to see what the VoiceOver / Speak Screen variants for VR turn out to be (and I've love for folk to be thinking about those issues sooner rather than later ;-)

    On the flip side, there are some fascinating options to help folk with AR type things. Look what the are doing with audio AR for folk with visual disabilities for example.

    With the office-work scenarios the ones that interest me are more about team work than they are individual work. For example being able to pin the team status board to the wall of every member of a distributed team's virtual office. Enable a group of people to work around a virtual wall of post-it notes, etc.


    Let's do this another way. When talking about the workplace effects of VR, most people are imagining the typical office in __ industry. Instead, let's ask the question: how would VR be implemented in your field?


    Re post 21: as it is, I've renamed them annoyaphones. This came clear to me a few months ago, when, on the DC Metro in rush hour going home, a lot of folks getting onto the train I was on, and this 30-something? 40-something moron who's completely staring at his phone, shuffling along, and finally looks up to move over a foot after he's in... never mind the fact that everyone knows, that the operators will shut the doors in your face if you're not fast enough, and about three or four people barely made it on... because of this jerk.

    We won't even start to talk about texting while driving.


    "When talking about the workplace effects of VR, most people are imagining the typical office in __ industry. Instead, let's ask the question: how would VR be implemented in your field?"

    I stuck with existing IT-centric applications, because most fields that don't translate to PCs also don't seem especially suited to VR (except for training).

    AR, yes. I can see how augmenting information could help any number of professions, from surgeons to soldiers, mechanics to chefs. Although in practice it doesn't seem to have worked like that. Presumably because the only current AR systems are flimsy crap, completely unsuited to real work, and have little or no context awareness beyond GPS.


    The whole idea fills me with nothing but apprehension. Because as far as inclusive/accessible design goes you're just gonna have to whistle.

    Current practice is to design using the latest flashy rubbish for no reason other than that it exists, and bollocks to anyone disadvantaged by it. So we get websites using - to take just one facet of the whole gruesome entity - moronic techniques like empty DIVs which are filled in by javascript in response to some event, instead of simply having static content. Never mind that trying to make sense of this nonsense with a screen reader or any other type of non-standard interface is next to impossible without writing a dedicated unscrambling module for each individual website that does it, since they're all different. Tenets of good practice like "make sure your website still makes sense when you browse it with lynx" just get ignored.

    Or a less technical example - websites that purport to explain something but when you visit them have nothing but a video. They supply some kind of transcript to search engine bots from which snippets can be generated, but refuse to do normal users the courtesy of providing the same.

    All "3D" displays that rely on stereoscopic vision are useless to me because I only have one working eye. But as soon as the hardware becomes reasonably common, website designers are going to assume it's universal, produce sites that don't make sense without it, and simply not give a shit about anyone who doesn't have or can't use the equipment. Certainly I will complain to the people running them (assuming I can even find a means of contacting them), as I already complain to sites that suffer from the kinds of problems produced by current techniques. Equally certainly I will get a 1% response rate with unhelpful content like "upgrade your browser", and be forced back onto my own resources, either to write code to unscramble the site or to simply not use it. OK, I actually can write code, although with extreme resentment when forced to do it by someone else's incompetence; but what about people who can't?

    Nor is there anything in the idea that strikes me as particularly desirable anyway. Even the basic "huge array of virtual screens" idea that various people have proposed leaves me cold. My current monitor is 21" diagonal, 4:3 aspect ratio, running at 1280x1024. That's as big as I can realistically use. I have the browser running at max width, but nothing else; any window where I'm editing the content in any way is unlikely to be expanded to more than about half the screen width because that's all I can reasonably concentrate on. I also have some tendency to fail to perceive the right hand side of things.

    (This isn't a consequence of artificial displays; I find similar when I'm driving. Motorway driving is incredibly tiring due in large part to the need to direct about half my attention other than to the cone of forward vision, whereas single carriageway roads are much easier because the volume of phase space corresponding to that volume of physical space is much more constrained and so much less attention is required to keep track of it.)

    The suggestions for office interfaces horrify me, as they seem to provide perfect concealment for people sneaking up and looking over your shoulder. And there is no possibility to rearrange the furniture, build barriers of books and box files, etc, so as to prevent them being able to do this. The most hateful experience in an office, for me, is to back out of a pool of absorbed concentration to discover some arsehole standing quietly and unobserved behind my right shoulder (my blind side). It'd be even worse to spend the entire time knowing there might be an entire crowd doing that without me being able to even tell. The isolating and immersive environment would provide an illusion of privacy, while actually reducing real privacy. The idea induces a visceral revulsion somewhat like the universal telepathy idea in the previous thread.

    I did once try my own very crude VR experiment. I put a camera on a tripod in a scenic location and took a sequence of slightly-overlapping photos covering the entire 360 degrees. When the prints came back I taped them together in a ring with the images on the inside, and put my head in it. The effect was stunning, but also something far too disorienting for me to want to experience other than totally passively, so as an interface it'd be no good for me.

    I can see the application for games... but then I don't play games. So overall, I see VR as something to worry about: I don't want it, but I can too easily imagine it becoming a significant effort to evade it.


    I think that would strictly be AR, as you would be using the real world as context.


    Thanks to someone, maybe Ahuva, for pointing me at an article that I can’t find right now that suggested that, far short of brain-uploading, people might simply start leading sparse and spartan RL lives, because their virtual lives would be so much more interesting and rich.

    Vernon Vinge pegged this back in 1982, in the novel "True Names".


    Hugh, do you know of any work being done in subtitling/closed captioning in VR? As most of the stuff being produced and most of the developers so far seem to be in the English-speaking world I assume this hasn't been much of an issue, but with greater public adoption there will be people using VR who are hard of hearing or who don't have English as their first language and who would benefit greatly from subtitles. On a regular screen sub/surtitles is a fairly simple issue - you just stick them on the bottom or the top of the screen where they are relatively unobtrusive but easy to find if you want them. In opera you can have the titles either below the stage or above the stage, and/or on separate monitors to the sides. How would this be achieved in VR? Is there any research on this? Is there a "point" in VR-space which would be the optimal placement for sub/surtitles? I'm a professional translator/subtitler myself, but so far only in movies/tv/opera.


    "But VR means you can turn whatever table is in the room into a huge touch display..."

    That's AR


    Interesting. I don't, but there probably is some.

    Best practise for text placement in VR at the moment (and remembering these are very early days) is to place it in world-space, not screen-space (things attached to our head aren't comfortable to read), usually at a fair distance and quite large.

    Other than that I suspect it'll be a case of positioning it unobtrusively but visibly.

    Thinking on it now, I'd say that the best people to ask would probably be comics artists. The problems involved are going to be similar to those of placing text bubbles in comics.

    VERY interesting question.


    I actually laughed at this comment - my optician's rather well-known internationally as being on the cutting edge of his field. However, I'm not him, and I may have failed to communicate exactly what the issues are.

    You're absolutely right, this isn't a "blah causes nearsightedness" issue. And you're also right, a good chunk of eye health is quantity of light getting into the eyes, which VR won't help (unless we start building SAD lamps into the headset, which isn't actually a terrible idea).

    However, excessive focus on close-up objects is also a problem. The key issue with convergence, as I understand it (and please bear in mind this is a considerable expert's opinion being filtered through the understanding of a n00b), is that of muscle strain and associated problems. Double vision, headaches, blurred vision, all that fun stuff.

    There are a variety of preventative measures one can take (and getting outside is good, but my understanding from, as I mentioned, a expert on the subject is that focusing on things far away is also extremely important), but it's a serious issue, and one that VR may well help.


    One big use for VR will probably be walking through VR supermarkets just like in real life. Everyone had been expecting it as the future for much of online purchasing since the mid 90s


    Supermarkets are optimized to deal with the constraints of meatspace; specifically, that inventory takes up a lot of room and can't easily be moved around. Online stores with searchable inventory are probably already a better experience in most ways except that it is more difficult to examine the product.

    I'd expect something more like the Matrix scene "guns, lots of guns". You specify a search, then the VR creates a spread of relevant options on-the-fly and arranges them around you. No "baking supplies are on isle 17"-style walking around.

    Then again, I suppose Ikea is designed specifically to force you to walk past a million showrooms. Perhaps it's a mistake to assume that the VR is optimized for the customer...


    Just saw this video: Hyper-Reality via William Gibson on twitter. The supermarket of the future, with Augmented Reality. Kinda depressing.


    You specify a search, then the VR creates a spread of relevant options on-the-fly and arranges them around you. No "baking supplies are on isle 17"-style walking around. Vaguely related real-life example; some 12+ years ago on a tourist trip to northern India, after about a week or two my spouse got used to the street vendors who would surround her while she walked. She could shop for trinkets while walking. It was liberating, in a way; welcoming the vendors rather than avoiding them. High resolution graphics, with multiple sellers. Something like shopping in a 3d spam folder, perhaps.


    That Hyper-Reality video is kinda horrifying. Thanks for the link.


    Obviously a world without AdBlocker


    The fictional depictions of VR that I've seen tend to portray advertising as floating labels like the "You deserve to look fabulous" at 02:17 in the video. Irritating, but no more than superficial adornments to the surroundings. This is unimaginative. Why not catapult the viewer into an actual advert? For example, have a virtual passer-by grab their arm and drag them into an enforced half-hour session in Jim's Inn.


    For example, have a virtual passer-by grab their arm and drag them into an enforced half-hour session in Jim's Inn. For things like that, I would buy, or build if necessary, an ad-blocker with a response slider; one end of the slider would make it terminate said virtual passer-by with extreme violence, and plenty of gibs. The other end of the slider would make it incapacitate them with love. On a repeat, it would simply block the ad or dissipate it after the first frame, then seek out and attempt to damage or destroy the commercial entity involved. Not a fan of intrusive advertising. :-)


    See also "Stars in my pockets like grains of sand" where the central character is revealed to be living in an amazing looking room that is like that because of holo projectors, and is otherwise merely a rocky cavern with no redeeming features and ugly pipes and such.

    A more dystopian view is that if you get people happier to run away to VR than get involved in real life things, you can steal more of the money and power without any comeback. Also who cares about the economy of physical stuff when you are the one who owns the media companies?


    So…everybody in VR gets to live the life they've always wanted, go anywhere on Earth (or space), surround themselves with beautiful people and/or things.

    And they do so with much lower emission levels of CO2 and other pollutants, without requiring the building of roads and airports, without the environmental damage from millions of tourists wandering through the world's beauty spots.

    Doesn't sound too dystopian to me.


    Well, man's imagination is less creative than nature's. Would you rather surround yourself with beautiful flowers dreamed up by a human artist, or those invented by evolution? Which are more likely to surprise?

    Anyway, may I introduce you to one use of VR that hasn't been much considered in this thread: education. Have a look at John Baez's description of Greg Egan's "Truth Mines": at the top of "This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics (Week 115)".


    VR and nature are not exclusive.

    Let's say we achieve in the near future a decent standard of living for everyone on the world, all 7 billion of us. A whole lot of of people with time for tourism.

    Say 0.1% of the worlds population decide each year that it would be fun to visit the mountain gorilla reserve in Rwanda. That's 7 million people, or nearly 20,000 every day.

    I think the gorillas will be much happier if instead one VR production team visits once a year, and everyone else takes the VR tour.


    Ah, you're not getting it, unless of course you are positing some sort of Banksian culture endpoint, which wouldn't be too bad. IMagine instead that 99% of people can only visit any of these places by VR, but the 1% holiday there in real life. Or you can only maintain said VR lifestyle by being perpetually in debt (see an SF short story by someone whose name I have forgotten, where the character is signing away his sons lifetime earnings for the up to date entertainment system), or so on.
    In real life there are people who use, worship and steal power, in whatever form, and the usual outcome for everyone else is bad (See everything from massacres to starvation to excess deaths in hospital because said hospitals aren't properly funded, down to higher suicide rates because somehow the money that could help prevent that isn't available, but we always have money for bombing other people)


    I share your uneasiness. When television came in, SF writers saw fully immersive VR as its logical, and none too distant, conclusion. For example, Keith Laumer's "Cocoon", where the whole human race consumes full-sensory entertainment pap while lying in plastic cocoons, sustained by nutrient tubes and just enough body massage to prevent muscles atrophying to nothing. One man escapes, but is too weak to do anything other than die in the cold, looking up at the stars. After that and reality TV, how can I believe we'd do any better?

    See an SF short story by someone whose name I have forgotten, where the character is signing away his son's lifetime earnings for the up to date entertainment system.

    "Cost of Living" by Robert Sheckley. Available at the Galaxy archive.


    See also "When the machine stops" by E. M. FOrster.

    Ah, Sheckley, I thought I had this story in my library, now I'm not sure.

    I have the strange idea that we can do better; just look at the last 200 years to see what we can do better. But at the same time, we are running out of time given the difficulties, and precisely how to sort things out is not at all clear.

    (Meanwhile, the governments pet economist who headed a report into a lack of new antibiotics somehow doesn't seem to suggest that we the taxpayer just pay for the research to be done in our own research labs, and inntead assumes the only way is puyblic provate partnerships and 'incentives')


    7 out of 10 recommendations don't say "fund antibiotic research" because 7 out of 10 are about reducing antibiotic use in the first case. If we don't do that, finding new antibiotics will just postpone the problem. I thought the report did advocate funding early-stage research? I've only seen a high level view, and assumed "fund" meant "taxpayer cash to labs."


    Yes, I know that. I had a closer look at the report over the weekend, and aside from the neoliberal blinkers it's pretty sensible. Even the EU, which is apparently the fount of all evil according to some people just now, managed to ban blanket use of antibiotics for growth promotion in farm animals back in 1998.
    As for funding yes, it's just where does it go? And how long does it take to negotiate all the contracts?


    've only seen a high level view, and assumed "fund" meant "taxpayer cash to labs.

    I suspect "fund" means "taxpayer cash to organizations which have labs". How much actually gets to the lab is a different question. And the quality of the work done, and accessibility to other researchers is a whole other ball of wax.


    Fair point, well made. As are guthrie's questions above. Frankly, given the almost total lack of traction up 'til now I'm welcoming any movement even towards the right direction.


    Sure, you might think there's been a lack of traction, but it's not quite that simple. In the rest of the world, there's been some work started already.
    For instance:

    Note that is news from over 3 years ago.
    Of course the problem isn't solved and plenty more work has to be done, but my point is that this is a well known problem and more and more people and organisations are working on it. It isn't, contrary to what the meeja and spin doctors might suggest, a startling new issue which requires a great deal of panicking.

    My other point is that more recently I've seen some public-private pharma collaboration stuff from the inside, hence my doubt expressed above. It's not that they are inherently useless, it's just that to my mind if you are saying something is a major problem that needs addressed sooner rather than later, a major complex public private setup is the last thing you need, simply because it'll take several years for the partners to agree on anything, and it will have very high bureacracy and lawyer overheads. And the usual history of such things is that the taxpayers end up subsidising the corporations.

    Instead, the obvious course is to put public funding into expanding university or such research, publicly owned and able to be spun out/ sold off to a private company for real money if it succeeds. Saves a fair bit of bureacracy, several years of discussions and fairer for us taxpayers. Oddly though that doesn't seem to be an option in the report....


    As for funding yes, it's just where does it go? And how long does it take to negotiate all the contracts?

    As an example, the European Commission funding programme, Horizon 2020, has a requirement that the time from funding call closing to contracts being signed so projects can in theory start is less than 5 months.

    Given that a funding call is attracting 100-200 proposals and 10-20 get funded, that's pretty good work in the evaluation process.


    Would I be too cynical to wonder if a short-cut criteria was used to evaluate proposals?


    I really doubt that is typical, and from what little I can find on what appears to be their website, isn't dealing in double digit millions. The part of the IMI project related to using high throughput screening and allowing blinded use of other pharma companies compound collections, (I forget the exact name, sorry) is being planned this year, for proposals early next year with decisions late 2017, so 2 years just for a followup to an original project.
    Mind you, said project was over 100 million euros with multiple pharma companies involved. So, to repeat my point which you haven't really answered, it's a long and complex thing to set up and run big public private projects and often the taxpayer gets left the rubbish whilst the corporations run away with the profits.


    the taxpayer gets left the rubbish whilst the corporations run away with the profits

    Isn't that the whole point?


    @ Paul451 :

    The working distance as cause for myopia theory is far from debunked, see for example The Association between Near Work Activities and Myopia in Children-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. ( ).

    Some studies (sorry wasnt able to find the references right now) suggest that it is especially distance to perihperal objects that might cause or worsen myopia, ie it doesnt matter if you read a lot as long as you do it outdoors or in a fairly large room. The theory is that close objects in the peripheral field stimulates eyegrowth and thereby myopia.

    With a VR headset on you get very close objects in the peripheral field, but they are dark and that might lessen the myopia inducing effect.

    As good as a Vive headset seems to be I am reluctant to get one for the reasons given above.


    I recently got use an Occulus Rift.

    I found the moire and aliasing artefacts very distracting, the demonstrations involved test flights round an aircraft carrier. Take off in a F35 was great fun, but elements like the railings at the side of the deck flashed and twinkled in an obvious way.

    I am sure selected scenes would be fine which didn't involve linear elements at high spatial frequencies, but it completely broke any suspension of disbelief.



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