HP Innovation Journal Issue 10: Fall 2018 - Page 68

In 2016, while interning with HP’s Immersive Experiences Lab, I worked with lab members Hiroshi Horii, Kevin Smathers and Mithra Vankipuram to explore the problem of keeping an immersed user aware of the passage of time. Our proposed solution included using the HP VR backpack to provide haptic cues to the immersed user. Cues including shoulder taps, periodic buzzes and wind gusts were integrated into the backpack and experimented with. Such explorations led to the realization that visual and auditory cues—not just tactile ones—could be utilized to increase the physical and digital awareness of an immersed user. So, in 2017, while still a student at Georgia Tech, I conducted a study to understand what these cues should look like, sound like and feel like. It was a participatory study where many VR designers were invited to come and design solutions. Together we came up with many unique prototypes. For example, if you are immersed in VR and I walk around you, then my footsteps can be revealed inside VR through footmarks, foot sounds and left-right vibrations. by controller vibrations can let you know that you are receiving that phone call. In essence, all we are trying to do is transfer some bits of information from the real, physical reality to the virtually created reality, thus connecting the two worlds. With several such notification prototypes, we conducted a study with 16 participants and found that purely visual notifications are not noticeable in VR, whereas audio is very good at attracting attention. Haptic vibrations in the handheld controllers need to be used selectively and with unique patterns so that they do not confuse users. Intuitively, we can argue that, since VR is already very visually engaging, notifications perform better if they do not completely rely on the visual channel. Our ears in real life are very well suited to locating sound sources. Hence, even in VR, audio serves as an excellent modality to make people turn and look and grab their attention. The results of our study have been published as a journal paper titled NotifiVR 1 at the IEEE VR 2018 conference that was held in Reutlingen, Germany, in March. Similarly, imagine you are engrossed in a VR design session and receive a very important call that you do not want to miss. A virtual pop-up near your VR controller accompanied FINAL THOUGHTS It is a rather interesting time to be in the VR industry. As the technology progresses, we look forward to a time when VR will be more accessible, when we won’t have to put on the heavy headset, when we will have unconstrained motion in VR, and when we will be able to touch, feel and manipulate virtual objects. I will constantly be looking for efficient and effective ways in which we can keep ourselves grounded in reality while being immersed in an alternate world. 1 S. Ghosh et al., “NotifiVR: Exploring Interruptions and Notifications in Virtual Reality,” in IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, vol. 24, no. 4, pp. 1447-1456, April 2018. Innovation Journal Issue Ten