Learning Environments virtual reality research and development lab

In September 2014 Learning Environments established a virtual reality research and development lab to allow academic and professional staff the opportunity to explore the VR's potential applications in teaching and learning, research and engagement.

Testing out the virtual Tuscany environment
Testing out the virtual Tuscany environment

Here are our top observations

1. Motion sickness can be an issue depending on the simulation

Oculus were not kidding when they said that the Rift is currently a sitting experience. In our testing so far we've found the most comfortable demos provide you with a constant frame of reference, don’t accelerate you too much and don’t let you collide with other objects - Titans of Space being a good example. Simulator sickness can occur when your brain thinks you should be accelerating but your body doesn’t feel it. Even just sitting at a virtual desk is a great experience for the first-time user. Read the Oculus best practices guide - they know what they are talking about.

2. You don’t need a photo realistic environment to have a great VR experience

From what we've seen so far, computer generated 3D environments give a more immersive experience compared to those shot using 360 degree video. This situation will no doubt improve over time as the technology evolves.

3. A decent computer with separate graphics card is essential for smooth playback

We’ve been testing on a late 2013 iMac (running Windows via bootcamp) which is able to run many apps at 75fps. We’ve also tested on laptops with integrated graphics cards that can only render 25fps and the experience is pretty ordinary. There are also way more experiences for Windows than Mac so best to get a Windows machine or run bootcamp on a Mac.

4. Creating content for VR needs to be thought of in the context of the viewing experience

Existing games and films can’t just be ported across to VR and expect to work. They need to be thought of in a different way to take advantage of the extra dimension provided. Traditional first-person experiences which allow for extremely fast rotation induce too much motion sickness.

One of the best experiences we have seen is Sightline: The Chair which does not allow any movement apart from turning your head. All the movement occurs around you which greatly reduces the sickness that can occur when you give the user the option to move around.

Ocean Rift is a good example of a gentle first person experience that allows for slow movements.

P.S John Malkovich should totally create his own VR experience so you can be him like in the movie Being John Malkovich. He just needs to constantly wear a pair of wearable AR glasses or get some bionic eyes implanted. Update: This concept is now a thing called Omnipresenz - backable on indiegogo.

For more information or to arrange a demonstration please contact Learning Environments.