Standing vs. Sitting
Why stand for hours when you can sit down comfortably?
Most people sit down 8-10 hours a day to work, play games, watch movies, eat lunch and browse the internet.
We believe that human nature is unlikely to change, so whilst stand-up VR can be great fun (if a little dangerous), the VR medium must make itself accessible for people who want to sit down in comfort.
From a commercial standpoint, a standing user needs a relatively large space compared to a seated user, which often has an impact as to whether an arcade, retailer or events company is likely to install it (and make a return on their investment).
From a technical perspective, a standing user is still limited in terms of physical playing space (often by walls), whereas VR is limitless. This physical/virtual mismatch is a challenge for VR developers, who often have to choose between limiting their virtual game space or giving users the ability to teleport around their environment. Teleportation however is unintuitive and illusion breaking.
Jason Rubin, VP of content at Oculus, discusses a significant percentage of users prefer to play VR whilst seated.
Challenges with Seated VR
Sitting down in VR has some unique challenges such as traversal (how we move around), motion sickness and cable management. These challenges are interlinked.
Why can't we just sit down and explore VR like a normal video game?
Human brains have evolved to assume any mismatch between what the eyes see and the inner ear feels, must be as a result of food poisoning.
In video games we use joysticks to move around digital environments. We don't get motion sick because the TV screen is quite small. Our peripheral view of the stationary living room is enough to give our brains the context it needs to feel comfortable.
However in VR, if the user is sitting stationary but the digital world spins around (as would be the case using joysticks to turn and move around), motion sickness can often occur.
For headsets connected to a PC via a cable, the problem is exasipated because the user is unable to turn around physically because they get tangled up. This means the tried and tested game controls of the past do not work for VR.
Roto solves this important circular problem with it's integrated Cable Magazines, allowing users to turn around freely, thus solving motion sickness, without the VR illusion being broken and without needing to understand complex controls (such as teleportation).
John Carmack, Oculus CTO, explains why physically turning in the real world is so important in Virtual Reality.
VR headsets track the direction we are looking, but not the direction we are facing.
For stand-up VR this is ok, because developers can get a read from the hand controllers and make a best guess as to which way we are turned (and therefore how to draw our avatar). It works well enough.
But for a seated VR user, this is a much bigger problem. A developer cannot reliably discern if a user has looked left, or turned left.
To avoid complications with game controls, developers avoid the problem altogether and choose between these two types of experiences:
Cockpit-Games: Fix the user to a single-facing direction. Typically common on PC because cables are an additional practical factor.
Turret-Games: Allow the user to turn around but fix the avatar's body to the user's head - a bit like robot from the 1980's. The problem is we don't turn and move around like robots - we turn with our neck first before we rotate our body, so the controls in these 'Turret-Games' do not feel natural at all.
Neither of the above choices available to developers deliver on the full promise of VR. The term given to solving the disconnect between 'looking' and 'facing' is called 'decoupled locomotion' and is the key to creating realistic avatars and natural movement in VR.
The Roto VR chair provides a solution by tracking the user's facing direction in real time (inside the Roto base) and sends back the data to developers as an 'input'.
Furthermore, thanks to Roto's integrated motor, developers can use the facing direction as an 'output', so they can also rotate us around dynamically, giving them the freedom to create full 360-degree experiences without worrying if anything important will be missed.
Finally, the Roto VR Touch pedals allows users to take an independent footstep in VR for the first time. 'Walking' (whilst comfortably seated) in de-coupled VR is an exciting prospect, especially when adding some rumble effects for good measure with the Double Rumble Packs.
All these features are integrated into every Roto and we look forward to seeing the new types of experiences developers come up with, now that the historic technical shackles have been removed.
One of the unexpected features of Roto is the sense of gravitational presence it generates within the virtual space.
VR can sometimes feel like of an out-of-body experience, where you can see the virtual world, but for some reason you don't feel like you're actually there.
With Roto, as the VR headset delivers the visual stimulus, the slight g-forces induced by Roto's internal motor reminds your brain that your body still has a physical mass, which magically gets transported into the virtual world. You really feel like you're there!
Roto literally sweeps you off your feet, removing the last trace of reality.