Hi Elliott, This is a great breakdown and very generous in sharing your process and insights, you came a long way from the vending machine days!
Are you planning on releasing the UE4 project to the public? Or only builds? I'd love to play around with it in the editor if possible!
80 level went to E3 2015 and had a chat with Tuncay Cakmak. Not only is he the CEO of Cyberith, but he is a physicist as well. He was kind enough to talk to us about Cyberith’s product the Virtualizer.
The whole company started in June 2012 and was officially founded in February 2014. It was very interesting because I started with an idea and made experiments with a remote. As I controlled my gun in Quake 3 and I felt very immersed into the game I thought to myself, how can I walk through these environments? The idea started at this point.
If you want to walk around with a virtual reality headset, you still have the issue with the walls stopping you in a room. We have created a locomotion platform for virtual reality that allows you to walk, run, turn around, jump, crouch, and even sit in place. This device, called the Virtualizer, allows the user to walk through any kind of virtual environment without reaching the limitations of the actual room the user is in.
We also have different models for different sectors. We are focusing on gaming, arcades, and defense. One is for the training and defense sector, it’s called the Virtual Elite. We have one for the arcade sector called the Virtualizer ME, and of course we have one for the consumers. To this date, we have already presold 400 units.
Low-Friction and Sensors
It works with a low-friction principle. We have a low-friction platform on the base and there is overshoes as well. The overshoes allow you to wear it over any shoe without having take your shoes off. The combination of these two materials has a friction coefficient which is very low and to walk forward, you just lean slightly with your hip against the belt system, and with the special mechanics your feet begin to slide. You just make steps like when you’re in real life and your feet will slide.
The sensor system will then track the motions. We have a fully integrated low-latency full-optical tracking system, which allows the detection of all the movements. We have a sensor system in the ring construction, in the pillars, and the floor construction. They all detect (for example) a person crouching, walking forwards, and walking backwards. You can achieve analog crouching with a precision of 7 millimeters in every level.
This means that with the rotation data we can decouple your body and your head. You can walk in one direction in the virtual environment, look in a second direction, while you are shooting in a third direction.
Getting Everything Fine-tuned
It was a lot of research, work, and tests. We have made a few prototypes. We put a lot of focus into the sensor system and the comfortability of our product. In 20 seconds you’ll be ready to go with the head-mounted display.
It’s very important for us to have a comfortable belt system. Our belt system is still in the prototype phase. We are working with a company to build a comfortable belt system where you can sit for hours. This is important because developers just want to sit and develop. So they can sit in the Virtualizer and develop in comfort.
We also put a lot of effort into the research for the friction coefficient. We want to reduce it a little more and also make more experiments with different friction coefficients on the sole. This could be a further step for a much more natural gait.
Immersion and Motion Sickness
Our goal is to reduce motion sickness in virtual reality. When you are using head-mounted displays, and your eyes and ears (with headphones) gets tricked inside the virtual environment. The problem is when you start to walk in-game, the kinesthetic movement of the human body is telling your brain that you are just standing or sitting in real life. Then you press a button on the controller, and there is a discrepancy between the signals from the muscles on your legs and your eyes and ears. This results in motion sickness.
I have experienced this especially when I use a mouse or a keyboard and rotate. When I am sitting there and rotating with a head-mounted display, it feels very uncomfortable. So that’s what we are solving. You can freely rotate with a cable management system for the HMDs. You can also walk with your legs using our product.
We are working on some prototypes with haptic feedback. We have a prototype in the office in Austria with a vibration unit under the base that enhances the immersion with (for example) an earthquake simulator, or you may be in a game and feel a Tyrannosaurus Rex approaching, or a grenade explodes and you feel it on the floor. This mainly describes our hardware company sector.
We are also working on software. We have Acan’s Call, a demo we made to show people how to walk through a ancient Maya temple. In this you have an experience similar to Indiana Jones. We also have a soldier demo that shows off the weapons system.
We want to see smiling faces inside our demos. We want people to experience something that they couldn’t have done before. I mean, visiting an ancient Maya temple is not possible for just anyone to fly out there and see these temples whenever. With our setup you can make it a reality.