This might sound a bit surprising but we humans are unable to walk in straight lines. A blindfolded man will walk around in circles. However, virtual reality is taking advantage of this inability. Subtle visual cues will trick us in thinking that we have travelled a huge area when actually we have not even left the room. This process is called redirected walking.
As VR technology is improving, one day we could travel around immersive virtual spaces using head-mounted displays. You could get a chance to explore virtual spaces like entire cities or buildings. However, if you end up hitting a real wall, that would not be immersive. Evan Suma, a computer scientist at the University of Southern California, said “This problem of how you move around when in VR is one of the big unsolved problems of the VR community.”
Redirected Walking Comes into Play
It has been observed that if virtual distance to walk is increased by 26 or 14 percent, people hardly notice. If a virtual room is shifted and people see their path as a straight one, when in reality the path is curved, it is not noticed. If the room is turned up to 49 percent more or 20 percent less than the rotation of people’s heads, that won’t be noticed as well. This is where redirected walking comes into play.
The magnitude or direction of a movement need not be precise as long as you and see and sense that movement. Eric Hodgson, a psychologist at Miami University says “Your non-visual systems are sloppy.” In real life, visual cues rectify any slackness in sensing movements. However, in virtual reality, all the visual cues are controlled by the software which tricks people’s suggestible limbs into walking a path that is sensible.
Among other modes, redirected walking might be the most effective method to be used in virtual reality.
Hurdles Faced by Redirected Walking
Redirected walking can work properly in the lab. However, it has still a long way to go before it is used in the living room. A large empty space is required for walking around with VR headsets. The other hurdle is money. A good position tracking of the VR headset user is required over a big space, in redirected walking. These systems are still quite expensive for the average user.
We can hope that in the coming years, we will see that these obstacles have been overcome and we can use it in the future.
What do you think?
Do you think redirected walking can be used in VR in the future? What other modes do you think is possible for VR use? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Image Source – wired.com