low tech hi tech logo

Responses to the Peter Rubin/Wired article: “Inside Story of How Oculus Cracked the Impossible Design of VR”

On March 27, 2016 an article appeared in the Design column of Wired magazine. The article was written by Peter Rubin and is entitled  The Inside Story of How Oculus Cracked the Impossible Design of VR. It can be found online here. My relevant background information. I majored in Photographic Illustration, with a minor in Film and Video, at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I 've worked extensively as a visual artist/photographer/videomaker as well an employee (in all areas of pre-production, production and postproduction) for companies like CNN, Cartoon Network, Fuji TV and France 2.  Many moons ago I was a guinea pig for testing a nonVR viewing headset- I chose Fire Walk With Me, by David Lynch.I have worked on 3D gamemaking kits and taught 3D gamemaking classes. Recently, I worked with hiverlab in Singapore to produce Beach Road, a short VR film which was featured in the Brisbane Film Festival and nominated for Best Experimental Short Film at VR Fest 2016 in Las Vegas. This post is one of several in which I compile notes for a book on "the new cinematography", where lenses and computers function as one. I am also a writer. Selections from Peter Rubin's piece in bold. I use the article only as a starting point and hope I have not stepped on anyone's copyright to toes... if I have, just let me know and I will remedy the situation immediately. After nearly four years of work, Luckey and his colleagues are about to share their long-gestating dream with the world. The Oculus Rift arrives tomorrow, and anyone who finds one on their doorstep must have an absolutely seamless experience. With all the momentum that VR has right now—the millions of people who are aware of it, the billions of dollars poured into it—Luckey would hate to see it stall because of something as pedestrian as a long wait for a driver update. The article is extremely well written and this proves why. VR is both a dazzling, bloodless  industry and a baby being born. Peter Rubin has given us a face, a glimpse into the unknown and a problem we can all identify with. The description of Luckey and his tests is great on many levels. THE FIRST EVIDENCE of Carbon’s influence came before the acquisition, when Oculus released its second developer-only kit. That headset, the DK2, not only added new capabilities—most significantly, the ability to have its position tracked in space and a display technology that kept images clear even when users moved their heads quickly—but, with its rounded corners and smaller, less forbidding eyebox, it was immediately friendlier than its predecessor. “We don’t want the robot mask on your face,” says Nirav Patel, an Oculus engineer who helped design the motion-sensing brain of the Rift. “As we went from DK1 to DK2, we had in mind that we needed to overcorrect for that.” Questions/Thoughts: The DK2 had the ability to have its position tracked in space.  Timewise, how does this compare with mobile phones, which also have this ability, correct? The technology and thinking that created this ability amaze me and I would like to learn more. ... a display technology that kept images clear even when users moved their heads quickly Lag...call me a geek, but I love me a little bit of math talk. The time between head movement and image stabilization was what fraction of a second? Audio Such an important part of the VR experience, yet so far we haven't heard anything about this....(pun intended). Ah!...another piece by Peter Rubin that describes audio and mentions the math on lag. Mentions the importance of 'presence' as well. You could custom-fit a 3-D-printed headset, but that was for naught if it didn’t lead to a good time in VR. As an artist, I would enjoy seeing these. The idea could also be expanded into masks/VR viewing devices...these would be worthy of an exhibition and would also offer exciting possibilities for interactive theatre. Specifically, for the clearest focus in VR—integral for achieving and maintaining “presence,” your brain reacting to a virtual experience as though it’s real—a headset’s lenses must be centered directly over your pupils. That interpupillary distance varies from person to person, and what Bristol characterizes as being “the 5th-to-95th percentile” of adults spans a range of more than half an inch. Problem! Math! And, in the next paragraph, Solution. Wow! “After you’ve used one of these for a while and you understand that it has this power to teleport you to a different world, you sort of look at it a different way,” says Atman Binstock, chief architect at Oculus. “This is the last thing you’re going to see before this magic power kicks in, and when you come out of this other world, it’s the first thing you’re gonna see as you take it off—and it has to be a comfortable part of this transition.”

Perceptive and sagacious. Atman Binstock cares about his product. The work that has gone into the aspect of Oculus device-as-part of the-entering/leaving-VR-experience will likely receive little publicity. I assume it will be so well-done that it will be taken for granted.

Related to this, I am guessing that there have been discussions, if not research, into making the Rift "impervious" to real world sounds.

As I wrote in the April issue of WIRED, everyone’s time with high-end VR has been chaperoned. It happened in a staffed kiosk somewhere public: a movie theater, an installation, a show like Comic-Con or SXSW. If a headset was uncomfortable or a PC froze, someone was there to help you. But now that that technology is finally coming into our homes, those minor annoyances threaten the growth of the industry. Early adopters tend to be ready to contend with setup woes or crashes. General consumers? Not so much. For VR to reach critical mass, there’s no wiggle room: It must be as simple and stable as possible.

Again, for those sitting in the back: For VR to reach critical mass, there’s no wiggle room: It must be as simple and stable as possible. Amen.

We’ve had more than a century of seeing information in basic gridded layouts; newspapers, websites, mobile phones, even TVs hew to this paradigm. Just because you have the luxury of navigable 3-D space doesn’t mean you have to reinvent that particular wheel—especially when you’re introducing people to an entirely new environment.

Just because you can, doesn' t mean you should. Yep.

Three menus in front of you—suspended in midair and positioned an optimally comfortable 2.5 meters from your eye—show your recently played games and experiences on the left, all available games in the center, and a list of your friends on the right.

Alright..we've learned that when we "step into "an Oculus VR experience, we are entering a luscious living room, and there in front of us are three menus, including a list of friends. Wow. "I'm living in the future..." David Byrne

There’s not even anything hovering behind you waiting to wow you with the promise of 360-degree space. That may seem like a missed opportunity, but it would still be VR for the sake of VR. Also, the perceptual data that Oculus dug up didn’t support it. “Once you start to get outside a 90-degree field of view, you start to turn your head,” Mitchell says. “Imagine we used the space behind you for important stuff and you have to go back all the time—you’re going to start to get tired.” And fatigue is an enemy of adoption.

BOOM! As a VR filmmaker, this  statement confirms what I have thought/experienced. 360VR is really good at creating a front-based viewing experience of 90 degrees. To me, VR is Big Cinema! People do not want to have to turn around for extended periods. Sometimes, yes, but only if it pushes the story. For example, we watch a ball being thrown over our heads and have to look behind us to see where it went... and discover a bad guy is there. With proper set up, it could be very effective. But I doubt many viewers will want to constantly turn around to watch scenes of long duration. However there are no rules, VR filmmaking is a frontier...just make sure swivel chairs are always handy!

Home will evolve through software and product updates. CEO Iribe teases the idea of digital pets and personalized decor—and of friends showing up.

If that sounds familiar, it should: Home will likely be where the impact of Facebook’s acquisition first becomes visible. In one early prototype, users could find picture frames around the Home environment displaying their Facebook photos. “We haven’t gone with any of that stuff for launch,” Mitchell says, “but there’s a huge opportunity to bring people’s experience outside VR into VR, and we’re going to look to push the boundaries of that in the future.”

For the umpteenth time: wow! WOW! Second Life without the high barriers to entry! By bringing nonVR experiences-and memories into VR, the sterility will disappear. Heartwarming kitchens, fashion runways full of real people, neutral meeting places for argumentative groups with different viewpoints. VR could be like TV! Or real life!

3 thoughts on “Responses to the Peter Rubin/Wired article: “Inside Story of How Oculus Cracked the Impossible Design of VR””

  1. Pingback: Cinematography 8.0: VR (best of blog posts, 2016)part 2 | blacksteps

  2. Pingback: Lenovo ThinkReality A6 headset: an inspiration for bicycle safety? - blackstepsblacksteps

  3. Pingback: Screenwriting for Spatial Cinema - blacksteps

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.