A patent application has been published today by Walt Disney Enterprises, Inc. for technology that could very well find its way into future parks and entertainment experiences: In an effort to make virtual reality more appealing, the company is working to develop VR experiences that can monitor your biological responses and alter content based on that feedback.
While some technology finds its origins in a random artistic thought or idea, most innovations are created to solve an existing problem. You may have heard the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” quite a few times in your life. When it comes to virtual reality, none of Disney’s most recent strides will be of value if users don’t actually enjoy it on a physical level. The necessity here is not just to make VR impressive and immersive, but to make it comfortable to use for more than a few minutes at a time.
The document, titled “Configuration for Adjusting a User experience Based on a Biological Response,” explains:
As technology continues to develop at a rapid pace, various systems have been developed to provide users with more realistic and entertaining user experiences. For example, augmented reality (“AR”), virtual reality (“VR”) and Mixed Reality systems generally provide realistic images and/or video that attempt to provide the user with a realistic feel of being present within the user experience. Even though such systems provide an extra sense of realism to enhance the user’s entertainment experience, use of such systems often involves a number of adverse effects, e.g., nausea, eyestrain, headaches, motion sickness, etc. As a result, users may reduce their usage time of these systems.
Disney is aiming to work through a problem that has been plaguing virtual reality since its creation — playing for too long can make you feel sick. Their solution: monitor the user’s biological reactions, and if they are starting to feel a bit strained or gross, change up the experience.
To properly gauge how a user is feeling, Disney needs data. Biological sensors can be added to an experience in a number of ways, such as “cameras, biometric sensors, infrared (“IR”) head sensors, smart watches, smart glasses, mobile devices, clothes, bracelets, fitness bands, necklaces, drones, and/or any other sensor that may automatically sense biological properties of the user without any manual input from the user.”
These sensors would be used to observe any biological responses of the guest, like “pulse rate, blood pressure, temperature, pupil dilation, sweat, and galvanic skin response.”
The system essentially has two functions: monitor health to alleviate negative aspects, and monitor interest to create the most engaging experience.
If the expected biological response is a comfort level that is not within an accepted health norm, the experience adjustment system may reduce the possibility of a user’s discomfort by sensing corresponding biological responses such as the following: motion sickness (dizziness, headaches, nausea, and disorientation), visual problems (double vision, blurred vision, focal difficulty), ocular problems (eye sore, eye pain, and pulled eye muscle), physical problems (neck aches and general discomfort), aural problems (ear pain, ear pressure, hearing loss, and ear ringing), and cognitive problems (difficulty thinking or concentrating). Accordingly, the experience adjustment system extends the amount of time that the user participates in the user experience by reducing the discomfort of the user when the user is uncomfortable and by increasing the excitement of the user when the user is bored.
Basically, the system has predefined criteria it wants to be met during an experience or attraction, such as excitement or relaxation. It reads a user’s biological responses and then compares them to predefined criteria based on what the desired responses would be from someone similar, accounting for things like physical/mental disabilities, color blindness, blood pressure, etc. If the real time sensory measurements don’t match up with the expected responses — the user is bored when they should be excited, nauseous when they should be relaxed — the system changes certain elements of the experience to bring those biological responses back in line.
Alterations could be made to visual settings (brightness, contrast, etc.), the experience could pause for recovery time, or the content itself could change. If a character or object is causing anything from eye-strain to an increased heart rate they, or their associated scene, could be entirely removed. This would also allow for increased customization. Action could be added to a scene that the viewer finds boring, or an overstimulating scene could reduce its pace.
The document lists quite a few applications for this technology, from virtual reality video games and theme park attractions to non-VR home entertainment systems.
It is always important to note that the existence of an application does not guarantee a patent’s approval, and the existence of an approved patent does not guarantee that technology’s use. What this document does tell us, is that Disney sees the current physical problems that go hand-in-hand with virtual reality and are aiming to solve them.