Stanford research points to Lytro-like VR that kills motion sickness

Stanford's light field stereoscope prototype diagram (Credit: Stanford Computational Imaging Group)

Stanford’s light field stereoscope prototype diagram (Credit: Stanford Computational Imaging Group)

Not too long ago, virtual reality was more science fiction than science fact. Over the past couple of years, giant leaps have been made toward developing this robust platform. However, one challenge still stands in the way for greater consumer adoption: motion sickness.

But this may change quickly, as a team at Stanford University has developed a more realistic way of presenting virtual reality.

Although the virtual reality arena has some big names, such as the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus, along with Nokia’s 3D cameras creating VR content and experiences. But at the end of the day, human biology has the last say on what looks and feels good.

Researchers at the Stanford Computational Imaging Group have been working on making virtual reality a more natural experience. The current crop of VR displays create the impression of depth through stereoscopic means, where each eye is presented with separate images at slightly different angles. Although depth is simulated, the human eye is still focusing on a flat image. It’s the brain’s conflict of depth versus focus that can lead to strain, fatigue, headaches, and general simulator sickness from using such VR headsets.

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Augmented Entertainment Will Be Your Next Living Room Guest

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via PSFK.com

Microsoft’s HoloLens wants to bring 3D people into your living room.

HoloLens marks a new phase for both entertainment and communication, connecting both fields with the possibilities of augmented reality. This technology could allow you, for example, to see an acrobat tumble through your living room or look a telecommuting colleague in the eye. You’d be able to move around them, the only thing missing being touch.

The HoloLens themselves will be a pair of large goggles not dissimilar to existing VR rigs like the Oculus Rift. The lens will fire off in front of you, wrapping around real-world devices or objects that you can then interact with. Let’s say you’re working on an art piece and wish to have it scaled down for 3D printing. You can grab the template and place it in its desired location to get an idea of how large to make the final version.

The augmented reality of the HoloLens is not limited to developers or artists. The HoloLens can bring your living room to life with apps on your walls, a toucan sitting on a nearby chair, and even a rocket ship flying around. Microsoft wants to give everyone something to play with by the touch of their fingers.

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Feel Digital Images in Mid-Air Without Ever Touching Them

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Despite the incredible—and increasing—ability of digital technology to simulate visual experiences, even the most committed Oculus Rift proponent will admit that the sense of touch is neglected amid the intense focus on visuality among developers.

An impressive new tactile interface called Ultrahaptics, however, is poised to change all that. It uses ultrasound to create a force field, letting you feel tactile sensations in midair without any need for gloves or fancy attachments on the part of users.

The Ultrahaptics device is a 16×16 inch grid of 64 ultrasonic transducers that reflect air pressure waves off of a user’s hand. The system, which was developed based on research from the University of Bristol, premiered at CES 2015 to great acclaim, including a CES Top Picks award.

At CES, company paired the device with a Leap Motion peripheral that allowed users to see their hand in space and follow tactile prompts, like popping bubbles and turning a virtual dial.

They got candid video of wowed users who had never quite had the experience before of a ‘phantom’ sensation on their fingertips. The research, of course, has helped refine this experience: for example, the waves are now emitted for longer lengths of time at different points to help replicate a sense of motion.

The possibilities for such an interface are endless:

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Tech demo lets you visit the International Space Station in VR

Opaque Multimedia's Earthlight lets you explore the outside of the International Space Station through an Oculus Rift headset, with Microsoft Kinect 2 motion tracking of your hands and arms

Opaque Multimedia’s Earthlight lets you explore the outside of the International Space Station through an Oculus Rift headset, with Microsoft Kinect 2 motion tracking of your hands and arms

Wondrous as today’s technology is, there remains no feasible way to put ordinary people in space. Except, it seems, through virtual reality.

Australian multimedia company Opaque Multimedia has combined an Oculus Rift headset with Microsoft Kinect 2 motion tracking to make it possible for every Tom, Dick, and Sally on the planet to get a first-hand (virtual) taste of life on – or rather just outside – the International Space Station. The comapny’s new tech demo, Earthlight, lets players explore in first person around the outside of the ISS as it orbits the Earth, safe in the comfort of their living room.

Earthlight may not capture every element of the real experience, but it was designed to get as close to it as possible. Move your hands out in front of you and you’ll see in your headset a space-gloved hand exactly where you’d expect it to be. Similarly, reach out to a handle or bit of scaffolding and give it a tug and your virtual self will begin to float forwards. And as you explore you might just see the Earth as it looks from 431 kilometers (268 miles) above.

It was difficult to make this work from a technical standpoint because even a millisecond delay or minor deviation between your movement and your avatar’s movement can make the experience more horrifying than exhilarating. Project lead Norman Wang says that to keep it running smoothly they had to push both the software and hardware to their limit.

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4 Reasons Why Exponential Technologies Are Taking Off

This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Farsi Wikipedia for the 13th week, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Farsi Wikipedia for the 13th week, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bitcoin and 3-D printing aren’t just successful commercial innovations, but signals of a larger societal reset.

Every so often, a novel technology emerges that propels society forward. The 1974 release of the first personal computer, the subsequent birth of the Internet, and the development of cellular technology are all prime examples. These weren’t just exciting business innovations, but exponentially valuable ones that changed society in countless ways.

These “exponential technologies” have an impact that extends beyond the limited notion of commercial success, or even shared value. They allow us to do more, learn more, and earn more than ever before. They transform our usual ways of thinking, behaving, and relating to one another. They empower and enrich the lives of many people, not just an elite few.

Right now we’re seeing an unusual explosion of society-shaping, exponential technologies. But why?

Take a closer look at the technology-powered brands and platforms making headlines today: Bitcoin, Boom Financial, CommonBond, Prosper, Airbnb, Tesla, Oculus VR, Wikileaks, 3-D printing, crowd sourcing, crowd funding, peer-to-peer lending, and so on. Each of these platforms just passed a threshold of popular acceptance, while the value of each one is ready to explode, if it hasn’t already. But market acceptance is just the tip of the iceberg.

Collectively, today’s exponential technologies hint at a larger trend–a societal reset now underway.

Consider for a moment these common traits:

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