30.05.18

Eye-tracking used by scientists to offer ‘infinite walking’ VR experience

Scientists have just announced eye-tracking technology, which tricks VR users into thinking they are walking infinite distances, despite being enclosed in a small space.

Stony Brook University, Nvidia and Adobe worked together on the system that uses a head- and eye-tracking VR headset to register quick eye movements, called Saccades, that occur when people look at a different point in our field of vision. The data is then used to manipulate a user’s walking direction, which tricks them into moving within the confines of a room or even avoiding other people or objects.

The work will be presented at Siggraph 2018, which is a five day exhibition and conference focusing on CG, animation, VR, games, digital art, mixed reality and emerging technologies. 

While the development certainly looks to offer gamers more comfortable VR experiences, it also has applications in architectural design, education and film production. 

Lead author of the paper, Qi Sun, a PhD student at Stony Brook University and former research intern at Adobe Research and Nvidia, said: "In VR, we can display vast universes; however, the physical spaces in our homes and offices are much smaller.

It's the nature of the human eye to scan a scene by moving rapidly between points of fixation. We realised that if we rotate the virtual camera just slightly during saccades, we can redirect a user's walking direction to simulate a larger walking space."

According to the research team, the method detects saccadic suppression (where our brains ignore the visual input) and redirects users during the resulting temporary blindness. When more redirection is required, researchers attempt to encourage saccades using a tailored version of subtle gaze direction--a method that can dynamically encourage saccades by creating points of contrast in our visual periphery.

At Siggraph 2018 in Vancouver, August 12 to 16, the work will be presented under the title “Towards Virtual Reality Infinite Walking: Dynamic Saccade Redirection".

The team has high hopes that the work will allow immersive virtual experiences without physical limitations to real-world spaces. 

According to Sun: “Currently in VR, it is still difficult to deliver a completely natural walking experience to VR users. That is the primary motivation behind our work--to eliminate this constraint and enable fully immersive experiences in large virtual worlds."

The system is said to offer the free-walking experience without causing dizziness or shakiness. Its speed means it is able to avoid moving objects such as other people.