More VR Juggling With the HTC Vive, This Time Wirelessly


Back in May, Owlchemy Labs, developer of the forthcoming Job Simulator, shared with us a video that highlighted the impressive precision of the SteamVR controllers along with the HTC Vive. Now with the wireless SteamVR controllers in hand, Owlchemy’s Alex Schwartz shows off some tether-free tosses.

Schwartz, Chief Scientist at Owlchemy Labs, is a game developer by trade and juggler by hobby. Until just recently, I doubt he ever suspected that these two passions would collide. And yet here we are. It’s 2015 and we’re witnessing the development of technology with massively disruptive potential: affordable virtual reality headsets and, perhaps equally important, precision gesture natural input controllers.

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Although Owlchemy’s forthcoming made-for-VR title, Job Simulator, wasn’t designed for juggling, Schwartz showed us back in May that all you need is a reasonably accurate physics model and a precise natural input controller for your real-life juggling skills to transfer into the digital realm.

Now he’s back with more juggling action using the wireless controllers from the HTC Vive Development Kit. Job Simulator’s kitchen environment (one of several ‘jobs’ players will experience in the game) has a number of prime juggling objects from tomatoes to mushrooms to rolling pins. Schwartz tells me that juggling with the Vive’s wireless controllers feels more natural.

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“Wireless helps with quick reach. At 1:43 in the video, I throw a tomato behind my back (poorly) and quickly reach to grab it. I have to extend my reach all the way to the point that I have to get onto one leg to make the stretch,” Schwartz said. “A pose like that would be tough with wired controllers because those quick snappy actions would make the wire sway in a way that you’d feel the weight and motion of the wire tugging or swinging afterwards, breaking your presence a bit when you feel that tug. With proper wireless, you’re freed up to move your hands completely unobstructed.”

In the video Schwartz juggles three tomatoes at a time and also throws a rolling pin into the mix (which he says he can juggle in real life). And while the natural input allows him to show off some of his juggling skills in VR, not actually having a hand with fingers is currently limiting him to three objects in VR compared to his real-life maximum of five. He envisions that some game mechanics specific to juggling could easily fix this.

“…holstering the items are the biggest hurdle right now when it comes to closing the gap between VR juggling and real. Once we ship Job Simulator, I hope to put some time into a juggling simulation app that would help with some of the issues we’re seeing, and add in some slick features like time scale sliders, grab range extension, infinite ball generation (every time you throw, a new ball appears back in that hand), etc,” he told me.

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I’m a big fan of the juggling demonstration because it so easily and powerfully demonstrates why natural input is the best possible way to interact with VR. As our input systems become more advanced (and more human), it becomes increasingly easy for people to interact with the digital world without any training. And if skills learned in real life can transfer into the digital realm with sufficiently natural input, there’s a very real chance that skills learned in the digital realm will transfer back to real life just as easily.

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