Earlier this year the Unity Labs team shared an incredible proof-of-concept mixed reality demo that shows the power of blending the real and virtual worlds together. Now the developers behind the project say you’ll be able to get your hands on the experiment on Quest sometime next year.
At Facebook Connect at the end of October, the Unity Labs team revealed Unity Slices: Table, a proof-of-concept social mixed reality app that seamlessly connects people—both local and remote—into a shared experience centered around a game board.
It’s tough to explain so let’s jump right to a video example:
Take a look at the video above. We can see two other users around the table, and then we see the view transitioning seamlessly between the passthrough view of the real world and the virtual world. But do you notice anything else interesting?
Of the two users we see, one is actually there, and the other is not. As the virtual view is wiped away in favor of the real-world view, the local player’s real body becomes visible, but the virtual player’s body remains as an avatar (because they aren’t actually there in the real room).
As Eric Provencher, one of the developers behind the project, explained in a breakdown of the demo, one goal of Unity Slices: Table is to dissolve the barrier between local and remote users by making either kind of player feel equally present in the experience.
This is why the core of the experience is built around a virtual chess board which serves as a central anchor for everyone in the scene, whether they are actually in the same room or on opposite sides of the world. Beyond bringing everyone together around a shared point in space, the chess board rests atop a real surface, which turns it into a sort of virtual touchscreen with real haptics (thanks to the real surface underneath). Everyone (local or remote) collectively ‘touches’ the same board within the same spatial frame of reference, making it too feel like a shared piece of reality.
“It took us awhile to get to a system that worked smoothly, but the moment we first hopped into a networked session with expressive avatars, and could both see and hear the other person tapping our table over the voice chat as if we were in the same room, was truly mind-blowing,” wrote Provencher. “It felt almost magical to bring this tangible part of our reality into a shared experience.”
This week Provencher affirmed that Unity Slices: Table will be released as a demo on Oculus Quest for anyone to try.
“My team is still hard at work polishing up Unity Slices: Table up for release, look for it on App lab in 2022!”
Beyond being an incredible mixed reality demo, hopefully it’ll also be a fully functional multiplayer chess app. We look forward to mixing reality ourselves next year.