To create immersive experiences in 3D virtual worlds, developers craft objects and scenes that offer compelling visuals and interactions. These elements, along with sounds, lighting design, animated objects, and avatars can all work together to stimulate senses and allow people to control aspects of the virtual environment. We naturally want to use more of our senses to experience and manipulate these digital worlds though, which is where stereoscopic displays, motion tracking, and haptics comes in. Interfaces like these are important to exhibit designers in museums. They allow us to to create physically engaging experiences with minimal technical interface barriers for visitors to use them.
From time to time, we see some great prototype technologies in each of these areas as they apply to virtual worlds (remember the data glove?) and occasionally new research emerges that seems like we can begin to distance ourselves from the keyboards, mice, and flat screen devices that are not the best interfaces for being seamlessly immersed.
With their Hands Free 3D r&d project, veteran technologist Mitch Kapor and Phillippe Bossut are developing a new way to interact with worlds like Second Life. Using a 3D camera designed by 3DV Systems, they’ve developed a custom SL client that allows users to operate SL without using a mouse or a keyboard. The system uses a webcam-like camera that captures the depth of objects in front of it (including a person) and using the modified client translates the person’s actual motion to the motion of an avatar to allow the person to walk or fly through SL by literally walking in front of the camera. Their goal is to make the interface to virtual worlds more natural and they expect this ease of use to make virtual worlds more appealing. Check out this video.