Experiences today are all about being interactive, and most successful games advertise the ability to play with friends from around the world. Virtual reality technology has some difficulties when it comes to interactivity though; not everyone has an open room full of expensive equipment to use at a moment’s notice. A new patent application by Disney Enterprises Inc. aims to solve this problem by letting users without VR headsets take part in someone else’s virtual reality adventure.
The patent application published today, titled “Incorporating External Guests into a Virtual Reality Environment,” describes a system where a virtual reality gamer’s experience could be influenced by friends playing from their computers, phones, or tablets.
The document first acknowledges the problem,
“In that regard, interacting with one or more other persons in a VR environment is a powerful way to develop an immersive VR experience. Among other things, interactions with other guests are oftentimes richer, more engaging, and less predictable than interactions with scripted video characters and the like. However, because of the logistical difficulties and costs associated with implementing room-scale VR with multiple guests, especially remotely located guests, incorporating human interactions into room-scale VR is not feasible for many users.”
Creating an immersive VR experience requires some sophisticated tech. Not only must the user see and hear a believable fantasy environment through high-end headsets, location technology must also be able to track their physical movement and body positions so that they can properly interact with said environment. So how would someone using only a tablet be able to take part?
Mostly, through sound and 2-dimensional images or video.
Imagine that during your VR adventure you come upon a mystical creature, a troll maybe. As you communicate with the troll, its actions are actually being controlled by a friend at home whose augmented voice is what you are hearing speak. Or maybe, you find a magical talking sword, but as you swing it about the voice emanating from the blade is really that of a friend.
How about a Cinderella-style magic mirror, as a patent application image suggests, where the image you see speaking back to you is video of a player at home, taken using the recording technology available on just about all phones, tablets, or computers.
The addition of an interactive component could increase interest in virtual reality gaming on both sides — users with the full headset getup directly in the simulated world, and players at home who’d like to get in on the fun and add a few surprises to their friend’s experience.
As must always be stated: The existence of an application does not guarantee a patent’s approval, and an approved patent does not guarantee that this technology will ever see the light of day.
The idea of a VR experience that everyone can enjoy, not just those with all of the equipment, could prove enticing to a much wider audience. If, when, and how this idea comes to fruition remains to be seen.