Sunday, July 6, 2014

Wearable but Intrusive?

From: Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona
At last month's E3 show, I had the opportunity to experience an early version of ControlVR, dubbed a "wearable controller" by its creators.

ControlVR is comprised of a set of sensors that attach to the torso, arms and fingers. Once properly calibrated, they can provide fine-grained reporting of the position of each finger and use this information in a variety of virtual reality applications.

For a prototype, the system worked very well, and I am sure it will improve both in looks and performance as it heads towards a production model.

My concern, though, will users really be willing to a wear such device for a extended periods of time. Such a design is relatively intrusive - takes a while to strap on as well as touches the user in so many points. This is not specific to ControlVR. The same could be said of the PrioVR suit or similar devices.

To answer the question, one needs to consider the benefits of such devices vs. the alternatives. I am sold on the benefits of finger tracking, or full-body tracking for that matter. But, there are alternatives (Kinect, Leap Motion, others) that do not require so many touch points on the user and deliver, in my opinion, similar benefits in most situations.

A virtual reality goggle is also intrusive. It touches your face, potentially messes your hair and sometimes requires you to remove glasses, just to name a few. However, there is no cost-effective alternative to achieving the immersion and portability of goggles these days. Whether that is also the case for devices such as ControlVR and PrioVR - I am not sure.

What do you think?