The Holy Grail of consumer-viable VR right now is finding a reliable combination of 1)untethered, 2)room-scale, and 3)social immersive environments. Pick 2 of of the 3 and you’re in the lead. See Oculus or High Fidelity (room scale & social) or AltSpaceVR (untethered & social). Ken Perlin’s students at NYU are trying to go 3 for 3 with Holojam.
Holojam allows audiences to be motion tracked in an untethered virtual reality headset that enables a “community-created collaborative 4-D spacetime sculpture.”* Participants wear light-weight trackers attached to GearVR and can walk around within a shared virtual environment – seeing each other as avatars and making gestures in the air together. Not unsimilar experientially to Zuckerberg’s recent Oculus demo – but these kids were doing it at a fraction of the budget and showing it to the public before Z stepped on stage earlier this year. Granted, the product isn’t polished, but the concept is spot on. VR must evolve to incorporate all three elements of the Holy Grail. So it’s worth taking a look at how Ken and his students are approaching the challenge. If you haven’t had a chance to see Holojam at Future of Storytelling or other events, check out the spin off company site for Holojam.
I’ve always been impressed with Ken’s forward thinking about how technology impacts our communications. I first encountered him in the 90s while working with his Face Demo as an interface for an autonomous robot that I was writing an algorithm for that would codify human emotions for a robot we named Vikia. You can play around with various prototypes Ken has developed on his website or follow his musings and insights on his blog. His students may graduate and move on, but he remains an inspiring visionary in the world of computer science.