One of the frequent criticisms aimed at virtual reality (VR) as it exists currently is that it is an inherently isolating, anti-social experience. Confined within the headset, unable to see those around you and cocooned within a virtual bubble, it is somewhat difficult to interact with those around you.
A team at Ulm University in Germany think they might have an answer, with the unusual FaceDisplay headset.
Created using a modified Oculus Rift headset combined with three touchscreen displays, the FaceDisplay allows bystanders as well as the headset user to participate in the VR experience. The touchscreens are mounted on the exterior of the headset, which allows an audience to see what is going on within the virtual world, the touch screens also act as a user interface, not only for the player, but also for anyone nearby, who can do things like spawn new enemies by tapping the touchscreens.
The idea behind the headset to make VR a more social, inclusive experience. As seen in the video demonstration below, there are some issues with the implementation. Using a touchscreen when you can’t see what you are tapping is an understandably frustrating experience, and for those who are trying to get involved from outside the virtual environment, it is difficult to anticipate when the player is going to suddenly move their head in a different direction; in addition, not knowing where people are around you or when they plan on poking at the headset can be a little startling for the player.
There are several products that are aimed at decreasing the isolation of the VR experience, from multi-person VR hardware to VR social media such as Facebook Spaces, only time will tell is FaceDisplay has a future as one of the answers.
VRFocus will continue to bring you news on innovative VR products and services.