Turris: The Relentless Pursuit of Zen VR
With over 500 demos (and counting), and at least 20 drastically different prototypes that all worked well... We continue to be students of each demo and the many physiological studies that pour into the VR community on a regular basis. We still continue to improve and strive for excellence. We could have stopped at the first prototype, but we knew there was a better way!
We've learned so much along the way and I'll try to share the justification of each of our successes, and more importantly, each of our failures. There is so much more to learn from the failures!
We done the work in VR and believe that the turris supplies the needs of VR user not just today, but in the near future. Anything less than these feature sets will be a disservice to the seated VR user.
Continuing below is a mostly quick summary of the path that got us here, and some of the things we learned along the way.
Lessons Learned Along the Way
Failures #1 through #15 - Leaning - Weeble Wobble / Exercise Ball
This was a super simple approach that just required a single MPU, a battery, and some bluetooth magic that would cost costs around $9 in mass production, and a plastic or rubber shell that would be somewhere around $8 -- depending on bling. Getting that design through UL and FCC would have been somewhat barrier free -- but it would have been a disservice to the VR community as this family of concepts was very temporary in solution -- it actually doesn't even satisfy the needs of current developments. In reality, simply caused more long-term problems than it solved -- though it was VERY amusing to watch people use!
VR Motion Problems With the Weeble:
- Inherently UNSTABLE -- the more you lean, the easier it is to continue leaning further because your center of gravity goes outside the bounds of the device. To counteract this, you can always add ballast, but it will still never truly correct the problem. Instability is not a good thing when in VR.
- Inaccurate Move -- The further the pivot point for movement is from your hips, the further you have to move your body in order to create the angle the MPU needs and still have a decent sensitivity and proper "dead-zone" Also somewhat susceptible to "signal drift." Some prominent VR pioneers are also adamant that analog move is a major no-no.
- Inefficient Move -- The further you have to move to create the movement, the longer it takes to adjust your movement or change movement directions, which makes you overshoot your preferred movement position. Depending slightly on the radius of the bottom, to go full-speed forward to full-speed backwards means you'd have to move your body around 22 inches!
- Unbalanced / Guided movement -- The further you put your body off-balance in VR, the more your body contemplates going on strike via way of VR induced motion sickness.
Fundamental VR Problems:
- Does not address cable management/tangle
- Does not address uncoupled look/move
- Leaves room for improvement for a more compact operation envelope
- Rubs and walks on flooring due to off axis rotation and no turntable
Novel and simple, but highly ineffective at solving even some of the smaller VR problems that face a user. So, we kept on progressing!
Attempts #16 through #20 - Pivoting Seats
These approaches were a bit more complex, but much more satisfying. Though the experience was less interesting for a crowd of VR curious onlookers to observe, it was eroding away at the real problems that faced VR.
Most of the motion problems were solved in this version progression. From a structure standpoint, we began to tune for what range of person we could accommodate. Some sensitivity to various sizes and weights of people were discovered. A 300 pound person could use the chair with no issue, but that made it difficult for the 70 pound person to use. A 6'8" person felt the chair was too low while the 6 year old child felt the chair was too high. We knew that we were where we needed to be in operation when those were the challenges we were up against. Complaints about moving in VR space had faded to nothing, and comments became preference based.
We added overtravel protection and a back support, and other nice safety features and creature comforts.
We had created a solution that was almost as fast as using WASD on the keyboard, and not too much slower than using an analog stick, or d-pad, on a gamepad! We reduced the amount the user had to move from full-forward to full-backward by over 20 inches!
On top of that, we did a number of functional changes to incorporate a turntable and the reading of torso angle so that we could provide uncoupled look -- perhaps the greatest accomplishment.
Fundamental VR Problems:
Tangle free VR -- Passing HDMI / USB through rotary slip joint:
The last few iterations have been electronics and rotary based. We knew we could easily multiply the VR rotation with respect to the real-world rotation. However, that was discussed and found an invalid solution as it had a marked effect on VR motion sickness. We knew we'd have to wrestle the beast of the rotary slip connector! We went through a number of iterations trying to solve the cable tangle and power issues. We tried a number of suppliers that claimed they had the solution, but they all failed. We ended up having to develop a specially made rotary slip connector device that would meet our specifications. This came after failure, after failure, after failure in the attempts to have consistent passage of high-speed signals... Did I mention failure?
Lots of failure...
But, finally success!
Now, with a proper rotary slip connector, we were also able to, in these versions, perfect PC on-chair or off-chair. We experimented more with some wireless options.
We are still honing the electronics code... and likely will continue to revise as time goes on.
We've achieved what we have set out to do on our initial feature set with these early access (and eventually production MKI) devices. We are relentless though, as we've since come up with all kinds of new and great ideas we want to implement. We will continue to improve and push the feature and performance envelopes, that's our promise to ourselves and to the community!