#534: Microsoft Technical Evangelist on Presence in VR Game Design

The Microsoft Build conference starts this week, and I expect that we’ll be learning more about the HoloLens as well as Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality operating system. Microsoft has been evangelizing about virtual reality the past couple of years now, and I had a chance to catch up with Microsoft Technical Evangelist Kat Harris at PAX West last Fall. She’s been teaching VR 101 development courses at different conferences, and we talk about what she’s been telling game designers about maintaining presence, building immersive experiences, and how to deal with some of the biggest breakers of presence including VR locomotion and the uncanny valley. We also discuss the limits of virtual reality when it comes to haptics, uncanny narrative, the future of artificial intelligence in enabling collaborative role-playing, and the power of world building & storytelling in games like Minecraft.

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PAX West is great place to play social games like Johann Sebastian Joust, where the biggest aspect of this gameplay is being able to control your sense of embodied presence. A game like this would translate well in mixed reality with other co-located people, but it would be nearly impossible to translate this gameplay into a distributed virtual reality game.

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Music: Fatality & Summer Trip

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. My name is Kent Bye and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. So this week is the Microsoft Build Conference. It's their developer conference where they're going to be talking about the HoloLens, their augmented reality headset, as well as Windows Mixed Reality, their general purpose operating system for mixed reality that they've been developing for both their augmented reality as well as virtual reality headsets. So back in September, I had a chance to catch up with Kat Harris. She's a technical evangelist for virtual reality, and she's been traveling around teaching game developers about some of the game design principles of virtual reality, specifically around presence. And so we talk a lot about presence in this podcast. But before we dive into that, I also wanted to just say a few things about Microsoft and their overall strategy. So if you look at the ecosystem of mobile, you can basically see there's two dominant players, which is Apple with iOS, as well as Google with their Android system. Now the windows phones never really quite took off. And I think Facebook also kind of missed the boat when it comes to mobile in terms of coming up with their own operating system. So both Facebook, as well as Microsoft, I think at this point are really making a play hard for mixed reality, for augmented reality and virtual reality. Now, when it comes to Apple, most of their machines that are out there can't even really run a high-end virtual reality experience, either with the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. So that pretty much leaves either Windows or Linux, and most people are just running Windows. So most people that are in VR today are running Windows machines, and it'll be interesting for me to go to Build this week and see what's happening with their Windows mixed reality systems. So more on that later in this week, but in this episode, we really just do a deep dive into presence in VR. And I came to PAX West back in early September of 2016, really thinking about this elemental theory of presence and started to talk to other developers about it for the first time. And as I was thinking about emotional presence, embodied presence, social and mental presence, as well as active presence, I started to look at different events that were happening during PAX West. And one of them was this Johann Sebastian game with these move controllers where you essentially have to shove other human beings and you have to push them hard enough so that the move controller essentially goes off. So I was thinking about that. I had also just come from an artificial intelligence conference. And so I had done about 60 interviews about artificial intelligence for the Voices of AI, which is set to launch sometime later this year. But I was also thinking a lot about AI, as well as the limits of AI and what is possible with collaborative storytelling with Dungeons and Dragons that was also being shown there at PAX. So that's some of the sampling of topics that we cover on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. But first, a quick word from our sponsor. Today's episode is brought to you by the Voices of VR Patreon campaign. The Voices of VR podcast started as a passion project, but now it's my livelihood. And so if you're enjoying the content on the Voices of VR podcast, then consider it a service to you in the wider community and send me a tip. Just a couple of dollars a month makes a huge difference, especially if everybody contributes. So donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. So this interview with Kat happened during PAX West, which was happening at the Washington Convention Center in Seattle, Washington from September 2nd to 5th, 2016. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:03:49.684] Kat Harris: I'm Kat Harris. I'm a technical evangelist at Microsoft and I help developers build VR and AR experiences as well as mixed reality experiences using Microsoft tools and platforms.

[00:04:02.596] Kent Bye: Great, so maybe you could talk a bit about some of the projects or things that you've been working on specifically in terms of what you do day to day, as well as the insights that you're sharing about immersive computing to these developers.

[00:04:15.751] Kat Harris: Right, so I go around and I'm giving talks about VR and the importance of design, especially for game developers who may not know a lot about VR and think that VR is just putting the plug-in with the headset into their game and being like, oh, yep, I'm a VR developer. I'm like, ah, there's a little bit more to it. So talking to them about design and how games should transfer over to the virtual space, as well as working with women and teaching them about how to build games in Unity or VR experiences in Unity, and working in the new LA area that I just moved to.

[00:04:56.739] Kent Bye: Great. So we're here at PAX West, and I understand you were giving a talk here about VR 101 development.

[00:05:04.075] Kat Harris: Yes, I was. It was a basic one-on-one talk, and I went over presence and the importance of presence to VR versus gaming, where in gaming, your main goal for your players is to make a fun experience, while in VR, your main goal is to immerse them into this new world that you've created. So, nailing that presence or keeping your users inside of their virtual world as long as possible is like one of your main goals and kind of explaining the importance of presence, how to break it, how not to break it, like focusing on movement, really getting that down, focusing on telling them about the uncanny valley. A lot of game developers are unfamiliar with some VR terms that most of us are used to and we practice in our development, but new game developers have never really have maybe encountered it, but it hasn't been so prevalent in their development. So, talking about that, and getting a really good response. Like, a lot of game developers were really excited to now develop in VR, get started with VR, at least in Unity, and getting an Oculus, or at least the Gear, because that one's, I guess, the easiest to set up.

[00:06:25.314] Kent Bye: And so for you personally, I'm wondering if you remember the first time that you felt like you felt presence within virtual reality.

[00:06:33.120] Kat Harris: I do. I do. It was, gosh, I'd say four months ago, five months ago. And it was playing Space Pirate Trainer. Yes, and that was the first time. I had been in a lot of VR experiences before then, and none of them really got to me. And a lot of other people were like, yeah, VR, it's the future. I feel completely immersed. I can see this. And I was like, yeah, I'm with you, kind of. I just haven't had that experience. And then I tried Space Pirate Trainer, and I was probably in it for about 20 minutes. And I was like, I don't want to get out. I don't want to get out at all. And I'm like shooting around and jumping and like twirling and doing all these things and hopefully not getting caught in the cord. And after I took it off, we were having like a board game night and VR night. So I like sit down at the board game table and I'm looking around at my friends and I'm just like, this doesn't feel real. Like nothing in this world feels real. And I kind of want to put the headset back on because that felt just as real as this. And now my whole concept of reality and what I perceive as like actual realness is completely shattered. And I was like, oh my God, what's happening?

[00:07:50.327] Kent Bye: Well, I think the thing that I'm finding is that you can go into VR and then come out and kind of have a new appreciation for presence and reality. Talking to over 500 different people about the ultimate potential of VR, one of the answers that really stuck out to me was Tom Furness, who's been doing VR for over 50 years now. He was one of the pioneers who first created it back for the Air Force back in the 1960s. His answer was that the ultimate potential of reality is reality, and that the more you go into VR, the more you can appreciate the differences and the boundaries between what's real and what's not real. And so I kind of think that what is happening is that people are going into VR and learning how to be present, and then they can come out into real life and have a new appreciation of achieving that same level of presence within real life.

[00:08:38.036] Kat Harris: Wow, yeah, that's amazing. I did feel that appreciation and now looking around and thinking about more VR experiences, I'm definitely like, oh, walking around PAX, what makes me feel like I'm actually here? It's this overwhelming sense of everyone doing everything and talking and so you just have I'm like paying attention to spatial audio more and just like hearing specific keywords that people are saying that get my attention versus just the background noise in a huge expo. So it's like interesting to kind of figure out why those things are being picked up and then just the overwhelming size of all the presentations and walking around and just feeling claustrophobic and realizing oh yeah like You could probably easily achieve this in VR as well and make a person feel very uncomfortable, but at the same time so overwhelmed with this amazing experience. So it's like, yeah, using what you find in reality and bringing it into virtual reality. Yeah.

[00:09:42.610] Kent Bye: Yeah, lately I've been really interested in that threshold, the boundary of things that you could only experience in real life and you can't do in VR. And then there's some things in VR you can only experience in VR. I mean, one game that I was playing here at PAX West last night was Joust. And it's basically like you're running around with a move controller and you're trying not to, like, have the people shake it. So you're trying to essentially create your body as a dampener so you don't have the acceleration move. And so they're trying to either push you or hit directly the controller so that then they are making the light turn red. Now this is a game where it's like activating all these different levels of active and embodied and social presence and it was like I was really appreciating playing that game because I knew that I could never do this in VR because there's all sorts of like collision and haptics and you know you're when you're pushing against a person, you actually get a response of that person that actually impacts your controller. So until we have artificial intelligent robots that are kind of standing in as haptic feedback for those people, then maybe we'll get there. But it seemed like that was a game where I couldn't play that game in VR. And so to me, I think it's really interesting to look at VR to see what's possible and then to come back into reality. And I had a new appreciation of playing that game that I don't think I would have had had I not seen what's taken away from VR.

[00:11:05.662] Kat Harris: Yeah, the one thing that I'm always like stressing is like we need to fully immerse ourselves but to do that you need like extra haptics. I'm like very curious to see what the wearable industry will bring to virtual reality. seeing kind of like these gloves and the sub pack. And I'm wondering like how much more additive stuff will we have to wear to be fully immersed? Like eventually will we all get into pods that will like fill with liquid that can, I don't know, simulate everything? I'm having these dreams of just like fully wearing a bodysuit and going into like a solution and then having gravity be affected even like that. Like if you're playing a space game, you just pop into a pool get a breathing apparatus and then that is your virtual reality but you have to like wear so much stuff so it's it's like oh that would be so cool that's a lot of work and I don't know if I want to wear a whole suit and then it's like where do you draw that line but then do you even want to draw that line like that would be an awesome experience to do.

[00:12:07.947] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think this is getting into the Uncanny Valley issue a lot here. So in going to the IEEE VR academic conference and talking to Rob Lindemann, he's talking about like the haptics, you know, you have your skin that's covering your entire body. And then the amount that our nervous system is able to detect different signals is a lot faster than our visual system. And it varies across the body. It's not all the same across all of our body. So you're basically talking about creating some sort of haptic suit that is essentially removing all of your sensation from this physical reality in order to synthetically stimulate it. So I start to think about like, okay, well, there's going to be a certain limit where it's always going to just not quite feel the same as like another human touching me or touching this specific ball or something. I feel like there's going to be a limitation of how far we can take this virtual reality, unless we start to do kind of direct neural implants and hijacking our nervous system and to go directly into the brain. But, you know, we've evolved to the point where our body is able to interpret a lot of these signals. And I think that that's where, in talking to the Uncanny Valley, it's not just visuals, it's across all haptics and the sound and all different dimensions of presence in that there's gonna be a point where once it gets high enough fidelity it's gonna have this drop-off and it's just gonna feel awkward and weird and not quite right and so there's just gonna be boundaries and limits for what we can do and I think as you study VR you're gonna learn what those thresholds are maybe over time that threshold will continue to get better and better but I still think there's just always gonna be some split between what we can do in reality and what we can do in VR.

[00:13:45.934] Kat Harris: Yep. I completely agree. And then I don't know, figuring out a timeline for that too is really exciting. I, I definitely know I have like a gut feeling that it will happen. Like, of course, in my lifetime, maybe in my kid's lifetime as well. And then maybe it's like, could we maybe put my brain into a little like capsule and then, you know, just go directly into the brain and put me into like a virtual world and that I can interact with or have that be the interface for us. Like when our physical form dies, we can still like live on potentially in this virtual world. And now I'm going into like sci-fi, but the more and more I interact and create experiences in VR, the more I'm like, Oh, this could be a possibility like soon, but I don't know. I tell it to some people and they're like, why would you even want that? And I'm like, why wouldn't you? It would be so cool. Yeah.

[00:14:38.365] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, I think that you're starting to get it and talking about, you know, some of this transhumanist idea that we can somehow capture our consciousness and be able to preserve it or come back to it and starting to study artificial intelligence and it starts to make you realize the limitations of synthetic intelligence and how amazing humans are and so To me, I kind of think that our bodies are a whole computing machine, and to try to just do one isolated thing that's simulating the brain is just not going to be able to fully simulate our abilities of embodied cognition, our intuition, and there's, again, limitations. Studying AI and VR, I kind of see this cross-section of interactive narrative that's happening for the future of interactive NPCs and how intelligent are they, how realistic is it. And I think that being here at PAX, one of the thresholds that I've seen is like looking at Dungeons & Dragons and people doing collaborative interactive storytelling and, you know, the Dungeon Master being able to interpret all the context and meaning of people's desires to be able to interrupt the story and exert their local agency within the context of the global agency arc of the Dungeon Master. And yet, the dungeon master has to have the intelligence and wisdom to be able to both understand what they mean, but also be able to incorporate and collaboratively incorporate it into his own idea of where he wants the story to go. And so when I look at Dungeons & Dragons and a dungeon master, I'm like, okay, how long is it going to be until we can have an artificially intelligent dungeon master to be able to pick up a lot of the context and everything before we're able to actually do that? So to me, I think both looking at VR and AI, the more you look at these technologies, the more that we learn about our cognitive perceptual system, but also our intelligence. And so they're creating these synthetic intelligence and synthetic stimulation of our perceptual systems to be able to achieve new ways of immersion and presence.

[00:16:28.463] Kat Harris: Yeah. One of the other speakers at PAX Dev, Pat Rothes, he had this great term, the uncanny narrative. And I was like, Oh yes, because then although we have all this AI and we're creating these artificial worlds where we live, like in virtual reality, you're trying to tell a story and there's this uncanny narrative where the story feels realistic enough with these rules that you've created as the storyteller, as the developer. and you have to guess what your audience or what your users are going to interpret because you might have a completely different storyline that you want to push but because VR is so immersive and the user can look wherever they want and kind of take in whatever input that they want you have less control and so creating and adopting a story that avoids this uncanny narrative so it's like Oh, I want the users to believe that dragons are real. And so you create this world that makes the user feel immersed in a world where, oh yeah, putting a dragon in front of me. Yeah, that's real. But if you put a Starbucks in that world, they'll just be like, yeah, no, that's fake. I've broken the immersion. I've come out of my presence. I was totally with you in the story and now it's gone. And like finding that fine line with AI and creating these bots to interact with people, like how do you prevent the uncanny narrative by learning about your audience and really studying human nature to try and get that fine line of the brain tricking itself into thinking, oh I know this is a fake story, like I know dragons aren't real but that dragon that I'm seeing right in front of me looks really real and if it blows fire on me I'm probably gonna die.

[00:18:15.296] Kent Bye: Yeah, that's really interesting because I know that Patrick is a part of this Acquisitions Incorporated D&D podcast that was on this panel that I saw yesterday. So hearing them and then I watched a long campaign. It was kind of like the season finale that was shown here live at PAX West. But what I was really recognizing was that Chris Perkins, the Dungeon Master, was saying that a lot of Dungeons & Dragons is theater of the mind. And so you're able to take what is given to you as the story, and then you're creating within your own mind. And so I think there's something that's a little bit different where there's a creator that's creating it for you and that part of the magic of this shared collaborative Dungeons & Dragons is that each individual has in their own mind what it looks like. So I can imagine a future where we start to maybe lower the barrier between being able to take our imagination and express it in a virtual reality, but do it so that's your own version. So you're kind of projecting your own meaning system onto it, but it's not being projected onto you. It's sort of doing some sort of EEG creation where we'll be able to eventually at some point dream at night and be able to take our dreams and be able to actually see what they look like but cultivate a mental telepathic language of thought that we're able to construct visualizations within virtual reality environments so that when someone's telling us a story we can create what we see in our mind's eye but yet we're each individually seeing what that version is but we're in a shared reality where each person has their own permutation of that.

[00:19:45.324] Kat Harris: Yeah, and maybe AI can help with creating those worlds for you. We can have our own personal assistants, and they'll learn about us. Like, oh, every time they see a dragon, it's been this brownish color. So when a dragon appears, if it's purple, that'll throw the user off, so we'll turn it brown for them. And every time that they've seen a table, it's been brown, so let's keep it brown. There's a brown theme going around. yeah it's like and every time they've seen a sign it's been green so we'll make all the signs green or half of them green but yeah I feel like dreams are another way for us to like learn that narrative because we're always immersed in our dreams like I'm the type of person that never realizes that I'm fully dreaming until like the last second and then I'm like, oh, right, it's a dream. I guess I can wake up now and then I'll just like wake up. But now I'm trying to remember and write them down and be like, OK, why did I feel so immersed in that dream? Like, what about the scenery or what about the characters made it seem real? And so I have a little journal now that I keep by my bed, and it's fascinating to see, like, oh, well, that person didn't have a face in that dream, but I knew exactly who they were. Like, I projected my friends onto these faceless bodies. again it goes back to you could probably just have a crowd of faceless people and then AI could just like go through your Facebook and just in play all your friends faces onto these NPCs and all of a sudden it feels more real.

[00:21:17.745] Kent Bye: Yeah, and the other thing about dreams is that there's a level of, you know, subconscious and, you know, Jungian and Freudian thoughts about dream interpretation is that there's a lot of things that are below our perception of awareness. So part of the challenge of, I think, in the future is that we're kind of like an experiential entity where we've had these neurons be formulated in that we're able to form these different thoughts based upon our life experience, essentially. And so AI comes on and they're basically and experiential technology where you're giving them an experience and they're able to learn as well. Well, we're already of a certain age of living in this life, so I have doubts as to whether or not we're able to catch up the AI to go back, and maybe at some point they'll be able to decode the sort of unique structure of everybody's brain, but when you're talking about dreams, you're really talking about these subconscious thoughts coming from deep within your psyche, and so you'd have to have the artificial intelligence be able to interpret those and then be able to then Connect those dots. You know that I think they were talking about 2050. I think we'll get that to that point but the idea that you're able to somehow Use your own imagination to put it into the world is something that I've already seen here within packs. There's a narrative puzzler game called Luna which is done by Funorama and the CEO is one of the executive producers of Journey but essentially when you go through this experience you're doing kind of a mental presence a puzzler game and then you go into this process of creating the scene so you're using your creative presence to put in your design aesthetic into this space and then you go into that space and receive the story and So in some ways you're able to kind of express your creativity in a space and then you're immersed in that space so you take a little bit more ownership of it and then you start to see the story. So I'm already starting to see like how in VR you're able to start to exert your identity or your design aesthetic and then be immersed into that place and then the story emerges and so you have a little bit more ownership of that. So for me I'm starting to see these interesting combinations of how do you create a stronger sense of presence Because for me, after creating that environment, I felt like more present in it. And it felt like I was able to receive the story better than had I been put into a space that was created for me.

[00:23:38.125] Kat Harris: That's really cool. And creating your own environment, it kind of goes back to, I immediately think of Minecraft. Everyone kind of creates their own world and then they experience it. And like they're going around and they're experiencing this world that they've created and it's amazing. And now with VR, we have more social VR, and hopefully we can create more experiences like that, but not necessarily Minecraft, but more narratives and stories that we want to create for ourselves. And it's like, oh, this is my own personal world that I want to create and can share with some of my friends, but it's really for me. And having that, it'd be like, oh, it's my de-stress time, so I come home from work and instead of going on the TV or watching or playing a game in VR, it's like I'm just gonna relax in my world that I've created and find out what happens more in my own story. That would be very cool.

[00:24:31.569] Kent Bye: Yeah, and for you, what are some of the things that you've found that break presence?

[00:24:36.007] Kat Harris: For me it's mainly movement, so those times where my character is moving erratically or something and all of a sudden my stomach is like you aren't physically moving so therefore we're gonna bring you out of that presence or generally physics will bring me out a lot and I know that a lot of different developers are working on creating these open source packages like Newton VR to make it easier to integrate better physics into games and experiences, which is great because if you throw a stick and it doesn't behave the way you think it's going to, like my brain is automatically like, oh, that's weird. Oh, right. It's because I'm still in a headset and this isn't real and all of a sudden I'm like out of that experience. So mainly those two, just like physics-based, is what breaks presence for me, which is the other reason why I love the Vive. Like, I get to walk around and if I jump in my virtual world, I'm actually physically jumping and I can feel everything and walk around and it's super accurate, which is why I think Space Pirate Trainer was that first fully immersive thing and I never got kicked out of that. and like me imagining that I was yeah I am a space pirate like this is me going around and I'm training for my space pirate mission my ship is parked behind me let me shoot these drones real quick like that felt totally real my brain was just accepting of it and the only time that I was like oh right this this isn't real was I was getting hungry and I was like oh there's no food around me let me uh take off this headset really quick and join my friends so I can get some snacks but yeah I'm so excited to see like how we can get around those especially the physics one because it seems like more and more people are adding to the collective solution of open sourcing these like physics packages.

[00:26:30.273] Kent Bye: Yeah, to me there's a big difference between the Oculus Rift with an Xbox controller and having the Vive with a full, fully tracked 6 degree of freedom controllers. In addition to being able to walk around and room scale, I think that if in the future Oculus decides to kind of stay with sit-down experiences primarily because of perhaps limitations of what their constellation tracking can do with optically tracked cameras and You know, I've just not had as solid of an experience of having room scale with some of the demos that I've seen even here at PAX or at GDC with, you know, breaking tracking if I spin around and, you know, if they are trying to... have me just face forward, then that's a limitation. It's like, oh, I have to face forward, otherwise I'm going to lose tracking. That to me is it breaks presence. And so within the Vive, I just know, okay, it's solid. I'm not going to be losing tracking. And so, you know, with the Vive, you still have like this subconscious, like, oh, I'm not going to like trip over this cord. So once they do wireless and be able to actually be completely tetherless, then I think I'm going to be even more immersed into the experiences. But there's something with the active and embodied presence. So being able to have a one-to-one tracking of your hands within the experience with the touch controllers, even when sitting down, it's a lot better than just doing, for me, this abstracted kind of using the Xbox controller to exert my willful presence into the world. to me is a lot more intuitive to use my hands and having that correlation just makes it for me a presence builder and then whenever the inverse kinematics starts to not be tracked quite as well then you know it's like okay well this isn't my real body doing stuff with like the Star Trek bridge here. Doing the actual hands and I have a full body but yet it wasn't quite exactly the way my body was moving so then it was like just a slight kind of presence break. So I think that I'm really looking forward to with the Vive, having more additional points of tracking to be able to maybe do better modeling of my full body. And in the future, getting that embodied presence as well as active, I think, is going to take people and then, like you said, the Space Pirate Trainer is going to allow them to really be fully immersed.

[00:28:35.236] Kat Harris: Yep, I completely agree and the more and more like hardware becomes cheaper and the more and more developers start adopting and learning about VR and creating these experiences, it's great because then all of us start to learn like what works and what doesn't work and how to make that easier to do so that we can create more advanced experiences. And so part of my talk at PAX Dev was encouraging everyone to try new things, because it's only until we've tried it over and over and over again have we learned like, oh, we can move this fast, but then here's the level where most people get sick. And adopting new thoughts of interaction and UI. some of these developers might have really good solutions, but they've just never had that intro to VR and how to get started or what to think about. And so, hopefully, more and more people start to develop and we get all of these interesting solutions to some interactive problems that VR has and make it even more immersive for us.

[00:29:40.242] Kent Bye: And finally, what do you see as kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what it might be able to enable?

[00:29:47.754] Kat Harris: Oh, the ultimate potential. I think it's going to be the potential of, again, creating these stories that we can share and be fully immersed in. So it's no longer I'm telling a story about this person who did this amazing thing. It's you're experiencing the amazing thing and you get to control or immerse yourself in this super awesome experience that you wouldn't have ever been able to do whether Financially or physically and and now you have a chance to and so getting that full immersion of something completely new so anything along the lines of education or learning or travel and narrative is Kind of the ultimate for me. It's like wow if I can fully immerse myself in climbing Mount Everest that would be great and whether or not I have to set up a whole room environment to do so like that would be really cool and Enabling that for other people as well is the ultimate in my head Yeah, awesome.

[00:30:56.380] Kent Bye: Anything else that's left and said that you'd like to say

[00:31:00.051] Kat Harris: I'm just, I'm really excited and I love this medium. And so I hope that new developers just give it a chance and just learn and try and keep on doing new awesome things. Yeah, because I want to consume all of the awesome that other people create or that I create. So I'm super excited.

[00:31:20.323] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Kat. Thanks. So that was Kat Harris. She's a technical evangelist for Microsoft. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, this interview was conducted about eight months ago. And so it's interesting for me to go back and listen at this time capsule. And some of the things that Kat was saying, which was like, you get into a swimming pool and with all these gear and you feel like you're weightless within virtual reality. That's something like eight months ago, I thought was crazy and ridiculous, but there have been some people that have actually built these integrated systems where you're actually swimming into a swimming pool with virtual reality. Now, is this going to be a mainstream thing that everybody has in their home? Probably not, but you know, who knows? Maybe someone will come up with something that's so amazing that everyone has to have one in their home. But I doubt it because I think the thing that I've also been realizing over the last eight months is that there is a real limit for how far you can go with virtual reality, especially when you start to see what's happening with this move towards these virtual arcades. where you go with your friends or you go and have some sort of like actual physical tangible haptic feedback, whether it's a motion platform or you're working with other people. And, you know, as I was talking about the future of interactive narrative, I was thinking about it in terms of how are you going to be able to distribute and scale out these massive experiences of narrative. You're not going to be able to do live theater with everybody having a live actor on the other end. But one of the things that I just saw at Tribeca was a live immersive theater with another human being. And my original thought was that some of this immersive theater coming and mixing up with virtual reality was going to happen in this massively distributed fashion with all this artificial intelligence. And maybe it would be bootstrapped by people playing characters remotely. But I started to see a live actor in the same room. And it was a mixed reality experience. And it was extremely compelling. It's called Draw Me Close, and I'll be doing a couple of interviews with the creators on that here coming up on the podcast. But the point being is that for a while there, I was thinking everything's going to be this AI, but other humans within VR makes it so much more compelling in that you can have so much more reactive experiences with other people, as well as the storytelling is, I think, is going to be very difficult to achieve the level of storytelling that other humans can do collaboratively. And I did an interview with Dungeon Master Chris Perkins in episode 441, and I do think that Dungeons & Dragons still is probably one of the highest peaks of what may be possible when it comes to a collaborative storytelling type of experience. And specifically the experience Luna, which I talked to Robin Honecke back in episode 438. But in that experience, you're essentially creating a part of a scene, and then you're stepping in and receiving the story. So whenever you are engaging your creative input into an experience, then it makes you a lot more invested into that experience. And I think the storytelling can just have a deeper level of presence and engagement. So that's all that I have for today. I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a donor to the Voices of VR podcast to help support this type of independent journalism and allow me to sustain myself as I travel all over to these different events, experience all the things, talk to all the people, and be able to share this information out to you and the rest of the VR community. So, please do go to patreon.com slash Voices of VR and donate today. Thanks for listening.

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