One of the problems Linden Lab is probably working on as we speak, is making the User Interface (UI) work for people who are exploring their virtual world called Second Life with a Virtual reality system, such as the Oculus Rift.
After all, in Second Life we want to do more than just walking and looking around us.
The current viewer is based on a 2D system and it isn’t very practical.
To simply walk around, interact and communicate, you have to use all sorts of buttons, keep windows open, etc.
For this reason the mouse view option in Second Life is pretty useless, even when you’re using voice chat.
Changing this might be quite a challenge, because when you’re inside a game or virtual world with your VR setup, you can’t see your keyboard.
In my view the solution is to take everything ‘inworld’, put everything you need inside the game.
Need to type something in chat, make a hand gesture and a keyboard will appear in your view, on the screen and with your virtual hands you can type your message on that keyboard.
Need to select something from a menu?
Touch an object and right there, floating in mid air, a menu appears that you again can click with your hands.
Recently I found a video that uses that very idea, but it also shows a few other things that I am sure the people of Second Life will find very interesting.
Watch it with me and then I’ll continue my story;
The VR setup used here is far from perfect, they use the Sixense STEM System which is really cool, you add sensors to your body and they tell the computer where those parts of your body are and how they are moving.
But before we go into that, let’s look at the part I am interested most;
As you can see, the inworld floating menu idea is used here quite effectively.
Of course this is a simple menu and the hand isn’t very exact, but I bet that this could be improved and also work with more complicated menus, such as the SL pie menu that allows us to interact with things.
Many of us already use tiny keyboards that are projected onto our tablets or smartphone screens, I reckon we can get used to a floating one as well.
I don’t think we need a huge one that fills the entire screen (although that should be an option for people with bad eyesight for instance), it could be a smaller keyboard that perhaps even looks like a real keyboard, or perhaps just floating letters, etc.
There are many options, but we’ll no longer need the RL keyboard of our computer.
Anyway, let’s get back to the video because it shows a lot more exciting things.
First the bit I don’t like; they controllers.
What is it with controllers?!
We’ve been using those since the 1970s (yes I am that old) and just like the VR headset has just made a huge comeback, I think it is time that the virtual glove should make a comeback.
As you can see in this video, he use two of the five trackers to tell the computer where his hands are, this works very well but it also means the hands don’t come with many options.
For the feet, this is fine, it is very exciting to see him play around with them and even kick a football.
Will we finally be able to really dance in Second Life… and will that be a good thing? 😉
But with your hands, you want to do more than slap, push and make a fist.
Perhaps you want to play a virtual piano, poke someone in the eye, point in a direction, pick your nose or use all ten fingers to type on that virtual keyboard I just talked about.
The Stem system but also the Hydra, have lots of buttons on their controllers to give you more options but in the end that means that you’re still just walking around with some updated joysticks.
I don’t want to feel like I’m holding controllers, I want to feel like my hands are in the game, just like my feet and body.
So I hope that someone will start developing a new VR glove, perhaps with a few buttons on the top of the glove so you can still have a few action keys there, but one that will allow us to use all our fingers naturally inworld.
Besides, if you need action keys, something inworld could perhaps designed better.
After all, we don’t need action keys in RL do we?
Nevertheless, I think that this video again shows another huge step forward towards a whole new kind of experiencing Virtual Reality.
We’re still waiting for someone to combine the Oculus Rift, the Hydra Razor, the Sixense, the Omni AND THOSE VR GLOVES into one complete setup.
And of course we’re still waiting for Linden Lab to finish their Oculus Rift friendly viewer that was supposed to come at the end of the summer…
But try and imagine the amazing potential all this have.
In less then a year SL could have changed beyond all recognition and our VR experience more real than we can even imagine at this very moment.
Exciting times to live in, twice.