How True VR Renders Other VR Technologies Obsolete
By Brian Delong
CTO, Sports Virtual Training Systems
As with most things in life, the right tool makes the task at hand much easier and provides a higher quality outcome. In the tech world this can lead to heated debates surrounding tool and platform choices. Think Mac vs PC, Android vs iPhone, Web vs Native methodologies. In reality they all have strengths and weaknesses and cater to specific fields, core beliefs, and ultimately the goals of their developer and user communities. There are similar debates in one of the newest areas of development, collectively known as “Reality Technologies”. To understand the opportunities and drawbacks of reality technologies, here’s a look at the strengths, weaknesses, and best use cases for reality technologies currently available or on the near horizon.
Augmented Reality has been around for a while and most the population has experienced it in some way. It’s a great technology to overlay contextual information on the real world, as in a heads up display (HUD). The NFL was one of the first to expose augmented reality to the masses in 2003 with the use of a computer graphics system that inserted the 1st & Ten line from the Skycam during televised games.
Google Glass, Microsoft HoloLens, and more recently the Magic Leap platform, have increased exposure to Augmented Reality (now also being referred to as mixed reality) at both the consumer and professional levels, with a move toward lifestyle integration and experiences. These platforms have enhanced the reality augmentation by making the virtual objects more lifelike, tricking the eye into believing the virtual objects and characters are real. Some even allow for limited interaction between the virtual objects and the real world. These experiences are great if you want to have a conversation with your favorite sports star, but not ideal for transporting you into a game at your favorite venue where you could throw that player a pass.
Strengths: Adds contextual information to real world
Weaknesses: Immersive Venue Experience Limitations, Field of View Limitations
Best Use Cases: HUDS, Virtual Assistants, Contextual Overlays
360 Video/Virtual Reality
One of the first technologies to receive the “Virtual Reality” label would be more aptly named “360 Video”. This has caused probably the most confusion in the industry regarding “Virtual Reality”. While this technology can produce an immersive experience, it lacks intractability beyond turning your head, looking up, and other basic browsing interactions. It’s like watching a really high-end home tour. You can get great fidelity and a real sense of the layout and feel of the house, but you’re not going to be able to walk around the house, peer into the cupboard or take the box of cereal off the shelf.
In the world of Football and sports training, 360 Video is just an upgraded way to watch game film. As such it serves its purpose, but it has limited utility because you can’t interact with it, create and try new scenarios, or get true mind/body reps. In the win column, it is one of the easiest starting points for entering into the Virtual Reality world, as it’s inexpensive, easily understood, and adoptable by both developers and users.
Pros: Cost to Market, Ease of Implementation, Mobility, Immersive Experience, Educated Consumer, Potentially Wireless (Phone based), “offline” content review, Content Creation Costs
Cons: No Interaction with “props” - enhanced film review, Computational Content limits (Phone based)
Best Use Cases: Virtual Tours, Enhanced Film Review
Next on our list is True Virtual Reality: fully immersive simulations and experiences that allow users to interact with the virtual environment utilizing either controls or “props”. For some experiences that might be putting on the ghost fighting equipment of a Ghostbuster, or grabbing your laser rifle and battling an alien attack. By interacting with real props the immersive experience can be extended and enhanced beyond passive viewing experiences, or simply moving within the environment. Up until now, the physical props or controls have stayed in contact with the user. The next step in True VR will integrate physical props that can be thrown or hit away from the user while their movement is tracked in the virtual environment.
Pros: Immersive Experience, Prop Interaction
Cons: Higher Costs, but better ROI, More complex Implementation and Requirements, User Education
Best Use Cases: Immersive Environments with prop interactions such as Sports and Destination Experiences
Why Sports VTS Chose True VR
In the case of Sports VTS, the “prop” is a real football. By utilizing a True VR platform we are able to create a true-to-life simulation that maintains the critical mind-body interaction at the heart of sports performance.
Here’s how Sports VTS’s quarterback training simulator, called QBSIM, works. Within several frames from a high-speed motion capture camera, QBSIM calculates and reproduces the acceleration, trajectory, velocity, and spin of the real football and mirrors the actual physics of the throw onto the virtual ball the QB sees in the simulation. This allows the athlete to stay immersed in the simulation space while performing the motions and the mechanics they would on game day.
The same techniques that transition the real ball into the simulated environment can also be used to make offensive and defensive players respond to the pass. Using tendencies derived from real player data, a defensive lineman could tip the pass, or a could DB intercept the ball in flight realistically – based on the QBs actual throw – without breaking the immersive experience. The platform also allows us to recreate the various stadiums, players, crowd noise, and other aspects of a true game day experience.
The human brain is very good at picking up on inconsistencies, so for a simulated environment to be effective it has to be as close as possible to real life. Attempting to replicate the realism of True VR using currently available augmented reality technologies doesn’t work because the QB who completes a pass would see the football pass through the receiver. You would also be limited to training on an actual football field, otherwise virtual players would be seen running into walls or other aspects of the real world, leading to a lack of realism and diminishing the effectiveness of training reps to prepare the QB for the real on-field experience on game day.
After evaluating the virtual reality platform tools available to us, Sports VTS chose True VR, although we prefer to think of it as Simulation Reality. This technology allowed us to build QBSIM as an immersive experience so realistic it allows QBs to complete training reps at game day speed and experience the immediate feedback necessary to enhance muscle memory and learn to throw a real football with greater accuracy under pressure. The underlying technologies are still being explored by consumers and companies and we are excited to do our part to bring truVR to the marketplace. We believe once consumers experience TruVR, they will quickly demand the fully immersive, interactive environment made possible in simulation reality.