Technology 3 min read

Spherical VR: Meet the System Changing VR Experiences Forever

Aiming to enhance the sociability of VR, researchers created a spherical VR display that can accommodate multiple users.

Image via the University of British Columbia

Image via the University of British Columbia

Despite the many recent advancements in both hardware and software, virtual reality is a socially isolating experience.

VR’s principle is to withdraw from the real world and immerse oneself alone in a virtual one, and its very concept is to suspend disbelief by deceiving the senses.

Some think VR experiences are best shared and that social VR is the future of the technology. Now, a team of Canadian researchers thought of an innovative way to make VR experiences more sociable.

Sociable VR Magic Sphere

There are already spherical display systems available that, in addition to their purely aesthetic aspect, can help create more engaging experiences.

These spherical screens take different technical approaches to project 360-degree videos without the need for headsets. They often use mini projectors and require specialized algorithms to turn video content into a spherical format.

But most of the spherical VR displays can only support one user and one viewpoint.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University of Saskatchewan developed a ball-like display that supports up to two users at the same time, thus “generating a more sociable virtual reality.”

Unlike existing spherical VR displays that show distortion-free 3D images only from a single angle, this system uses advanced calibration and graphics rendering techniques to allow correct viewing from multiple angles.

Read More: How to Master VR Storytelling

Sidney Fels, electrical and computer engineering professor at UBC and lead researcher, explains:

“When you look at our globe, the 3-D illusion is rich and correct from any angle. This allows two users to use the display to do some sort of collaborative task or enjoy a multiplayer game, while being in the same space. It’s one of the very first spherical VR systems with this capability.”

Called Crystal, this spherical display is a 24-inch hollow globe that uses four high-speed projectors, calibration and touch sensors, and one camera all purchased off-the-shelf.

The team of researchers won’t stop at two users. They’re working on a four-user system and possibly even more in the future for several applications, such as multiplayer VR games, VR surgery, and VR-aided learning.

Their focus, however, is more on teleconferencing and computer-aided design.

“Imagine a remote user joining a meeting of local users. At either location you can have a Crystal globe, which is great for seeing people’s heads and faces in 3-D. Or you can have a team of industrial designers in a room, perfecting a design with the help of VR and motion tracking technology.”

Read More: How the Oculus Quest Will Change the VR Game Forever

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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