Lessons in VR: A New Era of Magic Begins

The Future of Interfaces in Virtual Reality

Continuing my exploration of Virtual Reality I‘ve recently been thinking about magic. It has nothing to do with Fantastic Beasts or Harry Potter so sorry if the picture got you excited. Instead it’s a look at how interfaces could become seamless in VR (please don’t leave).

One thing I’ve noticed by people talking about being in VR is this notion of a world without limits. Tobias van Schneider wrote an article talking specifically about the depression phenomena. The feeling you get when you come back to reality. Here’s what he says:

After leaving a world like this, the rest of the day in reality makes me kind of sad. I have no more super powers. I want to touch the sky, rotate the clouds, stretch them and paint on them.

I’m always trying to think of a reason ‘why’ people would/should go into VR. A world of super powers where I can touch the sky and stretch the clouds sounds a pretty good reason.

Let me get back to interfaces for a second.

What is an interface? An interface is just a medium between your will and an action. Let’s take a super simple example — a volume control. You want the sound to be louder so you turn the dial and the sound gets louder. The dial is just the middle man between your will and the action.

Now there’s a famous saying in design circles. “The best interface is no interface at all”. Which is, for the most part, true.

When you look at the concept of magic. Pointing at things and making stuff happen. Exerting your will over the world. This, to me, is just the removal of an interface between your will and the action. Hence no interface.

Sure you might point a little stick and say some words to make it happen but the point remains.

Which brings me onto VR…

If a VR environment is the place where I can touch the sky and stretch the clouds. What does an interface for that look like? Essentially it’s the one where I can just point at something and it does what I want. Magic!

Sounds great but I’m still playing games with an xbox controller?

Yeh ok, so I got a bit ahead of myself. Until we can find a way to process our thoughts into impulses that can be read and translated we are gonna need to be creative.

But here’s a simplified example of how it could work right now.

I’m in a room (in VR) surrounded by a bunch of different objects. I point at an object and say ‘push’. The object that it’s in direct line with my hand would be pushed in that direction. Or I could say ‘fire’ and it catches fire. But you get the point.

This is possible right now using a VR touch controller and some voice recognition tech. We just need a large enough vocabulary for it to be interesting.

We could go even further with it and use muscle sensors to create controls too. So moving your hand in different ways does different things. But for now let’s keep it simple.

My point is that the concept of an interface is changing. I‘m in an environment where I can now exert my will over the physical(virtual) world and the forces that govern it. Current interfaces just don’t cut the mustard.

My bet is that the concept of ‘screens’ and ‘inputs’ will vanish altogether. In their place we’ll see a much more seamless integration of just our ‘will’ and the ‘world’ around us without the need for things to click and touch. Magic, albeit virtual magic, could be a reality.

Thanks for reading this! This is just a way to catalogue my thoughts as I continue to develop things for this new environment. I’m excited to learn and I hope it gives you some food for thought too.

I’m going to be sharing more stuff in the coming months. If you’ve got any thoughts at all please hit me up on twitter @itsliamtucker.

Until next time!