FaceDisplay and Other Bizarre Virtual Reality Projects from CHI 2017

Head-mounted display that lets everyone into your virtual world
Photo: Ulm University
Head-mounted display that lets everyone into your virtual world

The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems is taking place in Denver this week, and just like last year, it’s host to some amazing, incredible, and utterly bizarre technology demos. This year’s theme is “Explore, Innovate, Inspire,” which offers enough room to encourage the weirdness that CHI is so well known for. We’ve gone through hundreds of 30-second video clips to find the most interesting and crazy stuff. Today, we're bringing you some unreal projects in virtual reality, along with the project abstracts for all of those extra little details. Don’t forget to check out yesterday’s post on Interesting Interfaces; tomorrow we’ll have some amazing 3D-printing-related stuff.

  1. FaceDisplay
  2. Fingertip Tactile Devices
  3. CarVR
  4. Ambiotherm
  5. Haptic Walls

FaceDisplay: Enabling Multi-User Interaction for Mobile Virtual Reality

It’s true: Watching someone else as he or she dons a head mounted display and experiences a virtual reality environment is the most boring thing ever. I would advocate for just going and doing something else, rather than trying to impinge on the virtual world in which they’re immersed by repeatedly poking displays mounted on their face. Maybe I’m missing out, though, because this does look like an obnoxious amount of fun:

Jan Gugenheimer, Evgeny Stemasov, Harpreet Sareen, Enrico Rukzio, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany

We propose FaceDisplay, a multi-display mobile VR HMD, allowing by-standers to see inside the immersed users virtual world and enable them to interact via touch. We built a prototype consisting of three additional screens and present interaction techniques and an example application that leverage the FaceDisplay design space.


Fingertip Tactile Devices for Virtual Object Manipulation and Exploration

Manipulating objects in VR has always been unsatisfying. The fact that you can’t feel anything when your virtual hand touches a virtual object tends to break you out of the experience, reminding you that, in that imaginary realm, neither the object nor your hand actually exist. This clever little glove puts pressure on your fingertips, so that when you grasp something in VR, you get a convincing physical sensation of a virtual object’s weight.

Samuel B Schorr, Allison M Okamura, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA

One of the main barriers to immersivity during object manipulation in virtual reality is the lack of realistic haptic feedback. Our goal is to convey compelling interactions with virtual objects, such as grasping, squeezing, pressing, lifting, and stroking, without requiring a bulky, world-grounded kinesthetic feedback device (traditional haptics) or the use of predetermined passive objects (haptic retargeting). To achieve this, we use a pair of finger-mounted haptic feedback devices that deform the skin on the fingertips to convey cutaneous force information from object manipulation. We show that users can perceive differences in virtual object weight and that they apply increasing grasp forces when lifting virtual objects as rendered mass is increased. Moreover, we show how naive users perceive changes of a virtual object's physical properties when we use skin deformation to render objects with varying mass, friction, and stiffness. These studies demonstrate that fingertip skin deformation devices can provide a compelling haptic experience appropriate for virtual reality scenarios involving object manipulation.


CarVR: Enabling In-Car Virtual Reality Entertainment

When cars can drive themselves, your biggest problem on road trips (or your daily commute) is going to be keeping yourself entertained. VR seems like a great way to do this, except that the motion of the car is likely to mess everything up. CarVR instead uses vehicle motion to improve the VR experience, syncing up what’s happening in VR to what the car is doing in the real world. This makes the VR more immersive, and also helps to mitigate spontaneous puking.

Philipp Hock, Sebastian Benedikter, Jan Gugenheimer, Enrico Rukzio, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany

We present CarVR, a solution to enable VR in moving vehicles by subtracting the car's rotation and mapping vehicular movements with the visual information. This allows the user to actually feel correct kinesthetic forces during the VR experience. In a user study, we compared CarVR inside a moving vehicle with the baseline of using VR without vehicle movements. We show that the perceived kinesthetic forces caused by CarVR increase enjoyment and immersion significantly while simulator sickness is reduced compared to a stationary VR experience. Finally, we explore the design space of in-car VR entertainment applications using real kinesthetic forces and derive design considerations for practitioners.


Ambiotherm: Enhancing Sense of Presence in Virtual Reality by Simulating Real-World Environmental Conditions

Is there such a thing as too immersive when it comes to virtual reality? Never! In addition to sight and sound, there are all sorts of other ways to trick your body into believing that you’re somewhere else. Changing temperature is one, wind on your face is another. Next year, I’m expecting a little squirt gun to simulate rain.

Nimesha Ranasinghe, Pravar Jain, Shienny Karwita, David Tolley, Ellen Yi-Luen Do, National University of Singapore, Singapore

In this paper, we present and evaluate Ambiotherm, a wearable accessory for head-mounted displays that provides thermal and wind stimuli to simulate real-world environmental conditions, such as ambient temperatures and wind conditions, to enhance the sense of presence in virtual reality. Ambiotherm consists of a Ambient Temperature Module that is attached to the user's neck, a Wind Simulation Module focused towards the user's face, and a control module utilizing Bluetooth communication. We demonstrate Ambiotherm with two VR environments, a hot desert, and a snowy mountain, to showcase the different types of simulated environmental conditions. We conduct several studies to 1) address design factors of the system and 2) evaluate Ambiotherm's effect on factors related to a user's sense of presence. Our findings show that the addition of wind and thermal stimuli significantly improves sensory and realism factors, contributing towards an enhanced sense of presence when compared to traditional VR experiences.


Providing Haptics to Walls & Heavy Objects in Virtual Reality by Means of Electrical Muscle Stimulation

A wall, by definition, is something that you can’t pass through. To simulate a wall in VR, this system uses electrical muscle stimulation to hijack the muscles in your arms so that you’re physically incapable of passing your arms through a virtual wall. It’s a bit of a brute force approach to haptics, but apparently, it’s effective, although it’s hard to believe that the feeling is particularly pleasant. 

Pedro Lopes, Sijing You, Lung-Pan Cheng, Sebastian Marwecki, Patrick Baudisch, Hasso Plattner Institute, Potsdam, Germany

We explore how to add haptics to walls and other heavy objects in virtual reality. When a user tries to push such an object, our system actuates the user’s shoulder, arm, and wrist muscles by means of electrical muscle stimulation, creating a counter force that pulls the user's arm backwards. Our device accomplishes this in a wearable form factor. The repulsion design (visualized as an electrical field) and the soft design (visualized as a magnetic field) received high scores on “prevented me from passing through” as well as “realistic.” In a second study, we demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach by letting participants explore a virtual world in which all objects provide haptic EMS effects, including walls, gates, sliders, boxes, and projectiles. 


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