#131: Rob Lindeman on Non-Fatiguing 3D User Interfaces, Questioning long-term engagement with Room-Scale VR, the challenge of Haptics, & Gaming as the Killer app for VR

Rob Lindeman was the chairman for the IEEE 10th Symposium on 3D User Interfaces this year, and he’s currently the director of the Interactive Media & Game Development Program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Rob believes that the 3D user interfaces that are often depicted in popular science fiction movies is not a sustainable solution. That may work in short-term situations, but it is very fatiguing to hold your arms above your waist for long periods of time. Rob is really interested in researching non-fatigued user interfaces that can be used in immersive environments.

One of the more difficult problems with VR locomotion is that it is difficult to use a single type of travel interface that allows you to do short-term, medium-term and long-term travel. He talks about some of his research into using multitouch tablets, and using a walking motion with your fingers in order to do VR locomotion across all three spans of time from short-term to long-term.

The 3DUI symposium is shifting from incremental research topics looked at in isolation to trying to solve real-world problems with a hybrid approach of combining the low-level tasks in interesting ways. They’re striving to create more holistic integrations. Also because the graphics from game engines are so good, then his lab has shifted to integrating multi-sensory feedback into immersive experiences.

Rob is actually pretty skeptical about room-scale VR immersive experiences because of what he’s seen with the evolution of Kinect and Wii. People found that it was effective to play the games with smaller and more efficient wrist motions rather than full swings of the arm. Even though there was an intent to recreate the natural motions, the limitations of the system ended up that after the novelty wore off that people would play with much more efficient motions. Rob says that there is a tradeoff between efficiency of operating in a game environment verses how immersive the experience is. He prefers a very immersive driving experience, but he can’t compete with his brother who uses a more efficient game controller. He hopes that it takes off, but recommends people look at some of the 3DUI & IEEE proceedings to avoid making some of the same mistakes that they’ve discovered over the years.

The idea behind Effective Virtual Environments is to build a VR system that allows people to do something that they couldn’t do before. For Rob, he believes that the killer app for VR is gaming. He sees that gaming is really important and that having fun is a good use of your time.

Rob’s research has been about how can you have more long-term VR experiences in a way that’s non-fatiguing. He suggests thinking about bursting behaviors with actions that may be fatiguing over long periods of time because having resting periods is how we naturally do things in the real world.

Haptics includes everything from sense of touch like wind on your body, pain, temperature, pressure and vibration on the skin as well as our proprioception system which helps us identify where the relative position of our body parts are located. The input and output are very tightly coupled in an extremely short feedback loop, which makes haptics difficult. Also our skin is the longest organ of our body, and it has variable sensitivities in different parts of our body.

There are two types of haptics including feedback force feedback and cutaneous feedback, and to do fully generalized haptics would require an exoskeleton plus a skin-tight suit which is pretty crazy proposition. Because generalized haptic solution is so difficult, most of the successful haptic solutions are very customized to doing a very specific task in a very specific use case. You can also compensate for one sensory cue with another one, and so it’s much better to think about these experiences in a multi-sensory and holistic way.

Rob is a fan of Ready Player One, and he’s really looking forward to jacking into a world and going to places that he couldn’t go before. He’s looking for experiences to change his view or to take him to another world. He think that entertainment and fun is really important thing that should be considered a first-class citizen in our lives. He’s also looking forward to more game developers coming to the IEEE VR & 3DUI conferences in the future.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio

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