Kevin Williams Virtual Vertigo
Virtual Reality promises to pull us into digital worlds and convince our brain we’re elsewhere, even if those places are dangerous. We look at Inition’s ingenious interactive VR experiment designed expressly to terrify you.

Mind Games

Recently Kevin Williams visited and reported on the AR Vs. VR event, part of the Digital Shoreditch festival. The event includes a number of novel VR and AR experiences.

The star of the show however, was a unique experiment exploring the basest of human fears – that of plummeting to your death. Designed and built by Inition, it comprised a mix of physical props (in this case a thin plank of wood) married with a virtual space (that plank bridging the gap between two derelict skyscrapers) with  the obvious aim to completely fool the subject’s brain  into thinking they were in imminent danger of becoming pavement pizza.

The experiment was effective by all accounts. And as illustrated in the video below, once the final, cruel trick was played out that reaction climbed to extreme!

The Making of ..

Inition’s own case study on how the experience was built is below. The fundamental components were an Oculus Rift HMD, Kinect (for  movement tracking) with the environment created in the Unity game engine using MiddleVR .. oh, and a crosswind generator (aka ‘a big fan’).

Our 3D artists created a bespoke environment which could be explored in the Oculus Rift head mounted display which offers a 110 degree field of view.
The user would start their experience in a room complete with Digital Shoreditch Festival graffiti, comfy arm chair and log fire.  After being moved towards the exit door, it would suddenly open up, revealing a sheer drop hundreds of feet tall.
A thin plank of wood separated them and the roof of the building on the other side and they were encouraged to walk across, remaining on the plank.  For their return journey, an operator would manually send them falling to the ground.
Inition used a Microsoft Kinect for positional tracking and fans generated wind to enhance the sense of height. The whole experience was created within just one week.
It’s an intriguing experiment. Fusing one’s physical surroundings with that of an entirely virtual world has some exciting possibilities. Although, I must admit, being a child of the 80’s, growing up in the UK, one very popular children’s TV programme did spring to mind whilst watching the video ..

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