Adobe Research scientists, partnering with NVIDIA and Stony Brook University researchers, have created a new “redirected walking” technology for virtual reality. Using a novel headset, the system makes the user feel as if he or she is moving through a large physical space, rather than a small room.
This approach taps into saccades, natural eye movements that happen when we shift our gaze from one part of a scene to another. These saccades cause temporary blindness known as “saccadic suppression.” Researchers took advantage of this split-second to change the virtual cameras inside the head-mounted display to nudge users to walk in the desired direction without them noticing the intervention.
“In VR, we can display vast universes; however, the physical spaces in our homes and offices are much smaller,” said the lead author and Adobe research scientist Qi Sun. “It’s the nature of the human eye to scan a scene by moving rapidly between points of fixation. We realized that if we rotate the virtual camera just slightly during saccades, we can redirect a user’s walking direction to simulate a larger walking space.”
This saccade-driven system steers VR users away from real-world obstacles, making a small room seem like a nearly infinite space. That’s critical, because it can create a more realistic experience for the user and helps limit physical accidents. It can also cut down on VR simulator sickness, which is similar to car sickness and can include dizziness or discomfort.
Sun, a former Adobe Research intern who is now a full-time researcher, also worked on this project as a student at Stony Brook and as an intern at NVIDIA. He has partnered with Adobe Research’s Li-Yi Wei, Jingwan (Cynthia) Lu, Paul Asente, and several other researchers on the work. The researchers’ progress was already featured at the NVIDIA GTC 2018 conference, and the team will present this discovery at this month’s SIGGRAPH 2018 conference.
This technology makes room-scale redirected walking in VR more feasible. That means that one day, users could play a large virtual online game while walking around a small physical room—without experiencing VR simulator sickness.