Revolutionising Travel – The VR Travel Platform

Could VR Travel Revolutionise Planning?
Could VR Travel Revolutionise Planning?
Credit: Travel Pulse

When last did you book travel? Especially for pleasure. How did you find that experience.

Depending on the holiday, I find it both invigorating and frustrating.

Invigorating

Invigorating because I make a point to research activities, accommodation, and transport for everywhere we’re planning to go. I once created a ‘Guide Book’ that was 33% a ‘Lonely Planet’ type guide, 33% a Tripit style wallet of important information, confirmation numbers, phone numbers and addresses, emergency numbers and the like; and 33% empty space so everyone could journal their holiday.

Whenever someone asked a question on the 5 week South African Tour the family would shout out “It’s in the Guide Book!”

Frustrating

But creating the book was also frustrating. It seemed impossible simply trying to decide on Accommodation and whether to fly or drive to locations. Or even decide between locations.

How revolutionising would it be to literally travel to the location virtually? If you could don a VR headset and try something out  before even committing to comparing prices.

Revolutionising

If you own a holiday destination, this must surely be a nascent opportunity you can use to differentiate your business right now. If you’re a traveller, a back-packer, this must surely be an opportunity you can capitilise on right now (with the right camera.)

Don’t let the big corporates take this away from you. Figure out how to get VR experiences into the hands of holiday planners.

Could We Use VR To Correct Eyesight?

I am interested in how we can improve the human condition with technology. Could we use VR to correct eyesight?

Monitoring eyesight
Could we shift the focal length in VR to correct eyesight? Credit: uploadvr.com

I’m not an optician, or opthamologist. So nothing I say here could have any bearing on reality. But I am interested in how we can improve the human condition with technology. Could we use VR to correct eyesight?

Both my step- and biological fathers were airline pilots. And on the biological side I have two generations of military and commercial pilots. Like me, all of them had 20/20 vision in their teens. However, they all needed glasses in their 30’s and 40’s whereas my eyesight is still 20/10.

Even without this personal observation though, it’s hard not to notice how many pilots wear glasses. One of the reasons, I believe, is because of the amount of time they spend focusing at a fixed distance. Whilst there’s the big blue sky, the eye tends to focus on the glass of the window and the cockpit console. This is a similar effect to everyone who works for long hours staring at a computer screen.

Well, that and age of course.

So my question is, “Could we reverse this using VR?”

If we can reverse, or at least mitigate the effects of eyesight in children using corrective lenses, could we do the same in VR?

Could you enter a prescription into a VR system, which then changes the focal length of the display ever so slightly so as to exercise your eye appropriately? Tracking the eye would allow the system to discern fatigue, again changing the focal distance to reduce strain. Over time, exercising the eye in this way, theoretically at least, would do the opposite of relaxing the eye at a single focal length.

Is this even possible? Are you, or do you know an optical specialist who’d be interested in researching this with me?

The same could be true for hearing as well. Could we alter frequency and volume to regain hearing across certain volumes?

 

Tackling the ‘Reality’ of Virtual Reality

Split between the reality and the virtual
Credit: virtualworldsland.com

VR is an experiential medium. The first thing people express in their first VR experience is surprise at how ‘real’ it seems. Once you don the Head Mounted Display (HMD) and headphones, you really do experience another reality.

There are a number of factors that contribute to this. Chief for me is scale. Like the TARDIS in Dr Who, it is bigger on the inside. Staring into the eye of a Blue Whale,

or on a plank balanced out the window of an apartment 50 floors up, is simply something you cannot experience as viscerally looking at a screen.

And we haven’t even begun yet.

Right now two factors constrain the ‘reality’ part of Virtual Reality:

Resolution

The first is the resolution of the display. This itself is a function of the display technology, the processor, and power. If you’re using standard display techniques, pixel density becomes a real problem. As you add more pixels to a display, you exponentially increase processor performance requirements, in turn needing more power.

This is why the two leading VR headset manufacturers (Oculus and HTC) still tether their HMD’s to a powerful computer.

Fidelity

The second challenge to neuropsychological quality VR is the actual fidelity of the artefacts. No matter how good the rendering, we all can discern the difference between an animated character and a ‘real’ person. Within VR this effect is amplified.

Dilemma

This presents us with a dilemma: Create a discernibly unreal computer animated avatar that can respond appropriately to us as a being within VR. Or capture realistic video of people we can watch but not interact with.

Right now various producers are using both approaches powerfully. Spectating a Syrian Refugee camp through VR video is as powerful as experiencing dementia through VR animation.

Producers can create enough videos to cater for a simply decision tree, somewhat like an IVR call system. But this is clunky, unwieldy and easy to game. Equally the game engines of modern First Person Shooters and simulators are remarkably sophisticated, but the graphics are still not real enough.

It’s the melding of the two that will truly change VR. The inability to discern the authenticity of people within the simulation, combined with the ability to interact.

One thing that is certain, however, is how powerful this new medium is, and that it will change everything.

Watch this space.

The Case For The Virtual Reality Helmet

There’s no question that Virtual Reality is going to change the way we do everything. 2016 is touted as a pivotal year, with at least 3 large companies delivering affordable devices.

There are a couple of tweaks needed to make this mainstream, however. Firstly we need a way to untether the interface (Head Mounted Display, or HMD) from the computer. Or increase the compute power of an untethered HMD, currently a smartphone. Wireless has to be the way to go here, but there’s an immediate and obvious challenge…

…Power. Any untethered HMD needs power to run the display, which in turn means it needs a battery.

VR Helmet

My solution for this, and another HMD problem: Front-heavy, uncomfortable displays, is a light-weight helmet.

Consider the motorcycle helmet. Mine is a mere 1.3 kgs, with a plush comfort liner. You can easily wear this for hours, and many motorcyclists and race drivers do. (10 – 12 is my max so far) Helmets already comprise years of research for comfort and wearability.

Shell

For a VR helmet you could lighten the shell with ventilation, as you don’t need crash protection.

Power

The helmet allows you to place a battery on the rear, enabling far better balancing options.

Display Visor

You could design the display into the visor, so someone could literally flip it up and transition back to the real world. I imagine this to use technology similar to the Avegant Glyph, that reflects a projected image, rather than having a display mounted in front of the eyes.

Furthermore a helmet prevents one of the biggest distractions to immersion in VR, light leakage. Once you close the visor, you’ll be in the experience without any extraneous light.

The visor itself would provide a far great FoV increasing peripheral vision and the sense of immersion.

Sound

For maximum immersion you can embed decent, noise cancelling speakers in a helmet. E.g. My bike helmet already has integrated speakers. In a VR helmet you could even install surround sound speakers to enhance the experience.

Branding

Finally, consider the branding opportunities. From StarWars to Halo, there are helmet designs that aficionados will pay premium prices for.

Who wants to co-design this with me?