Oculus Riffing

I don’t know why I’m writing this. I should really be sleeping. Oh wait, I remember now! Because this article on the Rift was so cool! Something about new technology gets my mind spinning up. Then, there’s just no stopping it until I’ve written my thoughts down somewhere semi-permanent.

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Reading about their difficulty with developing HUD elements for the Rift was the most intriguing part. How, I thought, would I tackle the problem. A minimalist UI is certainly a good choice; it’s bound to be effective. However, what about more complex games with more complicated UI? What about a shooter?

I’m not familiar with the ins and outs of Rift technology. So, these solutions will be dubious at best. However, I am familiar with vision. The article is quite correct; the edges of your vision are great at seeing movement, not detail. Your fovea is cone country. Cones are light sensors, and they’re tightly packed near the center of your eye. Their arrangement and function allow you to see colour and detail. Rods surround the area occupied by the cones and see a slightly bluer spectrum. They’re more reactive and so are better at sensing movement.

We see 3D because of ocular disparity. One eye sees a slightly different picture than the other. Your brain puts those two things together and, through the magic of some intense processing and an extremely complicated visual system, produces 3D from 2D.

Now the fun part. How do we take advantage of this? Well, this could get really complicated, and I haven’t slept, so let’s stay in the realm of the simple and say we want to keep the HUD near the edges of our vision.

My first instinct was a 3D HUD-semi-transparent GUI. That could get complicated, though. Simple. It would take a profoundly different understanding of HUD elements to produce a workable system out of movement. It’s not impossible.

In the same way you learn where enemy fire is coming from in classic FPS games, you could keep track of your life. Call of Duty 2’s red-soaked display is one way to do it. You could also establish a fixed length line and track over it. As the track gets shorter, you’re losing more life. You could do something like a vertically-rotated heart-monitor using this same logic.

The edges of your vision are great at picking up speed, as well. You could increase the pace of the monitor’s movements to a frantic level as you get closer to death.

I’m also wondering what the threshold is for movement acuity. Could you create short-hand movement lines, like specific squiggles, that gave you information? The edges of your vision can still pick up pace, length, movement and rhythm, after all. You could even go with light intensity or something like a pulsing light. The larger and slower the pulses of the circle of light, the healthier you are.

You could even use the circle for an ammo counter. Or, you could overlay elements of the HUD in the environment. Instead of light or bloom tracking over a shiny surface, it’s your score.

You could use sound-cues or force-feedback. Perhaps, you could turn invert the colouring on a portion of your environment in the shape of a HUD or create a ripple effect over a simplified one.

These are just ideas, and I’m sure what the industry comes up with will be infinitely more elegant. I’m really looking forward to messing around with the technology. It looks amazing.

I only hope you can use it with glasses.

Addendum: One of the problems with the edge-HUD would be that, normally, movement on the edge of your vision attracts your attention. It would either be a distraction or a head-ache. Perhaps continual exposure to it will dull the reactive force of the movement, but it’s one more thing to grapple with. Humans, I tell you. All I want to do now is play with this technology. Not only is this fun, new gaming technology, but it’s hitting all my psych spots.

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