Recently I had a chance to meet with Dave Buchhofer, a 3D artist and developer, who has been working to find intuitive VR control schemes. Part of this requires a functional user interface, and I got to see some of Buchhofer’s early work on that front.
Dave Buchhofer works for a large architecture firm. He sees virtual reality as a great way to show clients what the firm’s work will look like before they commit to a design. For that to work, such a VR architecture visualization system has to be extremely easy to use — anyone should be able to pick it up and navigate a virtual space, not just those familiar with video games.
To that end, Buchhofer has been experimenting with various control schemes and interfaces with the Razer Hydra in his Oculus Rift playground test environment which is built in Unity. For his early interface experiments he’s using a middleware UI plugin called NGUI. From there he integrated Razer Hydra support.
I got to step into Buchhofer’s Oculus Rift playground to try out the early interface for myself. It felt extremely fluid and easy to use — probably because having your hands in the game with the Razer Hydra is so natural.
Just reach out to the button you want and it’s there. It felt faster and easier than repeatedly tapping a control stick or arrow key to cycle through until reaching the option you want. Contextual menus were attached to your wrist and would pop up when holding an object; it feel like using a futuristic holographic interface-on-a-glove, a la Dead Space.
I briefly played with the line-drawing function which was way more fun than I thought it would be. There’s just something about being able to draw a floating object from the tip of your finger, while running around, that taps into your inner 10 year-old.
Then I got to try surfing/flying — what an experience! I stepped onto the board, grabbed it with my hand, and lifted upward to ascend. I immediately got the feeling that I was rocketing up into the air as I saw the environment diminish below me. When I made myself fall back toward the ground I felt like I was falling! It did make me a bit queasy, but it was so fun that I kept at it for a bit longer than my body seemed to like. It felt just like flying in a dream.
If you have a Rift and a Hydra, you can try the latest version of Buchhofer’s Oculus Rift playground here.
I’m looking forward to seeing more of Buchhofer’s work, and when I do, I’ll be sure to share it here!