Oculus Explores 8 Experimental Locomotion Methods, Adds Samples to SDK

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Following a two-part blog series in partnership with Crytek, where the studio shared some of its research into VR locomotion comfort, Oculus has now added eight new experimental locomotion methods to the SDK. A recent entry on the official Oculus blog provides an introduction to the techniques.

Update (10/27/17): Oculus has posted their talk given at Connect earlier this month on the new locomotion experiments. Tom Heath shows each method in action and explains the thinking behind it. The video has been added to this article.

Oculus encourages developers to explore the experimental locomotion options, noting that certain techniques that appear to detract from immersion don’t necessarily result in reducing the impact or enjoyment of VR, as players can become “more accustomed, tolerant, or acclimatized” to various locomotion comfort techniques.

There are a few variations on a ‘static world’ technique to ensure the player is always aware of a static VR world in addition to the moving one, a form of ‘cockpit view’, motion-controlled locomotion as used in Lone Echo and various ‘climbing’ games, as well as some more unusual ideas involving mismatched visual styles, and ‘artificial tilt’ that “departs from any notion of stasis”.

Here’s a list of the newly included locomotion types:

  • Artificial Tilt
  • Counter Optic Flow
  • Unreal World Beyond Static Cockpit
  • Process Reducing Relevance of Mismatch
  • Ski-pole World Manipulation
  • Portals into a Static World
  • Window into the Moving World
  • Emerging Static in the Periphery

Some of these techniques are particularly difficult to explain or imagine; Oculus has provided the source code for a test application for developers to experience each one for themselves. Check out the full blog entry here for more details.

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The trial version of Microsoft’s Monster Truck Madness probably had something to do with it. And certainly the original Super Mario Kart and Gran Turismo. A car nut from an early age, Dominic was always drawn to racing games above all other genres. Now a seasoned driving simulation enthusiast, and former editor of Sim Racer magazine, Dominic has followed virtual reality developments with keen interest, as cockpit-based simulation is a perfect match for the technology. Conditions could hardly be more ideal, a scientist once said. Writing about simulators lead him to Road to VR, whose broad coverage of the industry revealed the bigger picture and limitless potential of the medium. Passionate about technology and a lifelong PC gamer, Dominic suffers from the ‘tweak for days’ PC gaming condition, where he plays the same section over and over at every possible combination of visual settings to find the right balance between fidelity and performance. Based within The Fens of Lincolnshire (it’s very flat), Dominic can sometimes be found marvelling at the real world’s ‘draw distance’, wishing virtual technologies would catch up.
  • EyeSeeing

    Ski-pole world manipulation is the only one in the list that is actually a locomotion method. The rest are simply visual tricks to prevent motion sickness when using thumbstick locomotion.

    • Laurence Nairne

      For clarification, is that based on you having tested them/you have it on good authority from someone who has tested them? Or is it an assumption based on their titles?

      • Caven

        It’s based on the actual descriptions from the linked blog entry. They’re quite explicitly describing comfort techniques for artificial locomotion–not actual locomotion techniques themselves.

        The Ski Pole World Manipulation happens to be a different form of locomotion, as it would require motion controls, but with the arguable exception of Artificial Tilt, all their described techniques could be expected to work with thumbstick locomotion. The blog post really is just describing visual techniques to avoid motion sickness.

        Most of them focus on different ways of showing static scenery at all times so that a person always has a stationary reference while navigating a virtual environment. A couple of methods attempt something more novel, but again, it’s all focused on visual methods to avoid motion sickness–not different methods of movement input.

  • PJ

    What’s wrong with with just using the anolgue stick for to walk? Gives you control over movement speed too, push lightly to walk, push it all the the way to run, it’s been like that on consoles since the N64..

    People may feel ill at 1st, but by being sensible and playing in small doses and taking regular breaks, you will have ‘vr legs’ in no time, also travel sick tablets help too

    • Sensible

      That’s just stupid. We should never tolerate sickness just for sake of playing a VR game. It will never appeal to mass that way. VR should be accessible to everyone.

      • PJ

        Artificial locomotion is terrible, teleportation is an immersion killer, games like onward, pavlov and BAM show that the simple use a thumb stick is better for walking about, arktika.1 could of been a classic, but it’s ruined by the stupid choice of locomotion. I suffered at first, you get used to it.

        VR should be accessible to everyone, your absolutely right, but surely it’s better to make the best game possible?

        • Laurence Nairne

          VR is already a walled garden as it is due to sheer cost of adoption. No sane developer is going to fragment their customer base further by adding an extra blocker to their software. You may just get used to it after a while, but unfortunately, not everyone shares your ability to adapt to motion sickness.

          I develop VR experiences for a living and it’s amazing the range of physical reactions to the simplest of experiences. Trust me, the “get used to it” approach does not work at a market level, but good on you for grinning and bearing it!

          • PJ

            Snap! I’m also part of small VR development team, small world!the subject Is part of our daily argument, do we make the best most immersive game possible and allow tumb stick movement, or another form like blink or teleport. Personally I HATE teleport, really ruins the experience for me. Either way you loose sales from both sides, so why not go with the best solution to make the best product you can? In our office there’s an argument about including every possible form of locomotion possible and having the player choose, but by doing that, you have one hell of a tough job balancing them so the overall game does not suffer

          • Laurence Nairne

            To be fair, I’m still waiting for a better option than teleport that doesn’t put some people at squeamish odds when in VR. It’s fine for slow paced exploration experiences, but not for anything remotely competitive.

          • PJ

            The closest I have seen to being competitive with thumbstick is ‘skiing’ with the players weak hand, but that, I assume would be tiring and make long play sessions too demanding.
            It’s a problem we all face, I’m adament that thumbstick is the way forward (for 1st person games), I just can’t see any other way round it, sadly I think it’s up to the player to build a tolerance to it, maybe add a ‘training mode’ within the game itself that’s gives the player short 15 min sessions, with increasing levels of intensity so the player can build a tolerance whilst learning the mechanics of the game in question

    • silvaring

      For first person it’s not ideal, put I this way let’s say it was 1995 and Nintendo we’re prototyping Mario 64 with a dpad, it would work but not as well as analog. They need the same breakthroughs now. Also I do think there’s room for third person analog stick games in VR (an awesome experience) just like 2d platformers after Mario 64 didn’t just suddenly become irrelevant and could still evolve, but Oculus / valve / sony have to make that concession and give visibility to those apps.

      • PJ

        I play pavlov and bam, there isn’t anything wrong whatsoever with the thumb stick for controlling movement

        • Mane Vr

          Agree thumbstick control locomotion feels great the one thing that throw it off and i keep telling the devs is allowing lock thw play space not just hand or head.. most have a hard time understanding why it huge for those who has a 180 degree setup and play with full locomotion..

    • Flamerate1

      Currently, I don’t think there’s an absolute best method of movement. Personally, I like analog sticks best, but there’s still a LOT of room for experimentation, which I think Oculus is doing a good job of encouraging.

  • Is there a motion system based on how you tilt yourself, like a segway without the segway?

    I think all systems of motion should eventually feel natural, e.g. driving is using your feet and hands and a motorbike accelerates by twisting a throttle. You eventually get used to a third party input controlling your position, as long as you have control. Like anything it takes getting used to.

    The thing that really got me though was natural movement in the real world that stopped in the VR world. Like moving outside the scope of the Oculus sensors, it felt horrible and unexpected and I imagine was a trigger for feeling sick thereafter. Why they didnt just quickly fade to black when that happens is beyond me. A sudden drop in FPS so your real world actions move faster than the VR world version also induces sickness in many people.

    As an Indy I would offer all types of motion in my products and let the user decide which best to use as we are all different when it comes to the dreaded sickness feeling. In competitive FPS this may pose an unfair advantage to those that are less susceptible to VR sickness but you could compensate in other ways. e.g. a dodge assist feature for teleportation users or filter servers based on the type of motion input people are using. There are solutions but the devs these days just seem to stick to the safest solution. One day a dev will break out this easy-mode trend and just offer full control and see if people get used to it, even if they make it a special game mode for the vomit defying die-hards who don’t care.

    • kool

      Think golem will use that Ubisoft may have it in that robinson game.

    • DoctorMemory

      I like some of this but you could find yourself spending more time testing each type of movement and not really testing your game if you know what I mean.

  • Some of them are really weird…

  • Flamerate1

    Everyone just needs to get a pen and paper (or keyboard) and just start writing stuff down and posting it.

    Who cares if it’s not thought out, idiotic, or just plain won’t work.

    We need to take a note from evolution and mutate the crap out of our ideas, THEN establish something.

  • Trent

    Pimax 8K has solved most of the motion sickness with their large 200 FOV. Many people including the most sensitive users who have tested the prototype have reported reported having no motion sickness issues like other small FOV HMD’s https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pimax8kvr/pimax-the-worlds-first-8k-vr-headset

    • Laurence Nairne

      Motion sickness doesn’t derive from FOV, it derives from an offset between what your eyes and ears (not to mention nervous system) are telling your brain about your motion. If you’re eyes are watching you move and your ears say you are perfectly still, that messes with your perception of motion.

      Increased FOV will solve other forms of nausea induced in VR, but not motion sickness.

  • Great video. Some of the things they tested have crossed my mind too. Love this kind of research.

    • David Wilhelm

      Agreed. Thanks for updating the article with the video.

  • chavpl

    I’m just a gamer and i’ve experienced motion sickness while I was playing few driving sims (I’m guessing that low FPS in the games could me a major factor. I can’t afford more powerful PC at the moment). I used a motion sickness medications and it helped. so maybe that’s one of the solutions? VR drugs? just and idea

  • Armando Tavares

    Oculus is shaping up to be the main contender in VR… even in a MS VR populated world.

    Pressure is on VIVE side now. They will take action or die.

    Oculus is ahead of the competition. Kudos.

    All we need now is some software magic to lower minimum computer specs to: Quad-Core, 8Gb RAM and GTX 1050. Minimum specs still drive the price too high for mass adoption.