I’d Like An Order of Virtual Reality With a Side of 360 Video, Please

So many to choose from…

At BioflightVR, we get a lot of inquiries from people who are, “looking to do something in VR…” Most of the time, this is exactly how conversations with potential clients begin: we explain what we have done, what we can do, and what option we feel is best suited to fit their needs.

We don’t mind these conversations so much since we all love this technology and educating people on the opportunities that is has to offer. But, I keep thinking that if there were some kind of document these potential clients could read beforehand, it would benefit all of us. So here it is. This is that document — I hope it helps clarify where the industry is at right now, where it’s headed, and what we can do for you.

Since there are almost as many modalities (360 Video, 3DoF, 6DoF, Standalone HMD, etc.) as there are acronyms in the “VR world”, (VR/AR/MR/XR/ZR … okay, I made that last on up,) I’ll start with the lowest barrier to entry — the “cheapest to distribute, but less immersive” — and go from there to the “most expensive to distribute, but highly immersive.”

360 Video

For a lot of educational and training situations, 360 video is an inexpensive, “next level” way to illustrate information and complex procedures. 360 video can often very easily take the place of traditional training videos and are quickly being adopted by companies both big (Walmart) and smaller (Cedars Sinai) to ensure their employees’ success.

A common example of this is where the user can simply watch a 360 video as though the action is taking place around them. This is facilitated by placing a single 360 video camera in a position that one would best learn the activity like they are right there observing, “looking over the instructors shoulder.” In a lot of cases, the action is only happening in a central spot, but the 360 video gives the user a sense of presence and immersion and therefore helps them retain the information better than traditional video.

360 Multi-angle Immersive Training Video

At BioflightVR, we have been working on perfecting our own system of 360 video training for a few years now. Our version utilizes three (or more) separate cameras that can be chosen on-the-fly as the action takes place. This allows for training beyond a single discipline, utilizing all angles captured from the same video shoot.

For instance, in one case, our videos can be used to train a surgeon, or surgical student on how exactly a procedure is done. This same set of videos can be viewed to teach a scrub tech or medical rep the procedure, as well as the unique tools being used to accomplish the procedure — simply choose the angle that is most effective for your learning case.

By overlaying informational callouts and multiple choice questions within the video, this becomes a powerful, experiential learning tool. One surgery, multiple cameras, multiple use-cases for training. You can contact us for a demo of this product.

Viewing Devices for 360 Video and Multi-angle Immersive Training Video

Both of these 360 video modalities can be viewed a number of ways, making it easy for potential clients and end users to access the video content. The most basic way to view the content is simply with a web browser that supports WebVR — which includes almost every modern browser.

WebVR allows the user to pan around using their mouse (on a PC) or to pan their phone or tablet device around as the “window” to the experience. The user may also put their phone into a “cardboard” device that gives an even better sense of immersion and costs very little ($5-$20 usually.)

These experiences can also be ported to standalone head mounted displays (HMDs,) such as the Oculus Go, and the use of a controller can be incorporated into the experiences to further the sense of immersion and control. Of course, anyone with a full VR setup, such as an HTC Vive, can view the content through their device by simply launching it from within a web browser.

A Quick Lesson on DoF, or “Degrees of Freedom”

In regards to the capabilities of both headsets and controllers, 3DoF and 6DoF are terms that are commonly used amongst the more technical users to represent where you are in the environment. Think of it like this: 3DoF is simply the ability to swivel your head and see the world all around you. 6DoF is similar, but includes the ability to move your viewpoint side-to-side, up-and-down, and forward-and-back — with 6DoF, you can even walk around the environments you are seeing.

Let’s use a simple dining room scene as an example. There is a table of food in front of you, you are “sitting” in a chair, (look down and there it is,) and a chandelier hangs above the table. With a 3DoF headset and 3DoF controller, such as the Oculus Go, you can turn your head to look around and see your surroundings, but you cannot stand up, or “grab” the food on the table by extending your arm — in most cases, you use the controller more like a laser pointer to select and interact.

With a 6DoF headset and 6DoF controllers, such as an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, you can stand up from your chair and even walk around the table, (space allowing.) You can reach over the table and grab a hot biscuit and set it on a plate, or reach up and knock the chandelier with your hand to make it swing back and forth — making the experience more immersive by creating a greater sense of presence.

Which Brings Us To Standalone HMDs

Standalone HMDs do not require a phone or PC in order to run content (apps) on them. Currently the king of standalone HMDs is the Oculus Go. Oculus, vis-à-vis their parent company Facebook, have some deep pockets and that has allowed them to create a very healthy, thriving ecosystem for the Oculus Go. There are currently other players in the market, such as HTC with the Vive Focus and Pico with their Neo headsets, both with slightly better specs than the Oculus Go, but Oculus Go is the least expensive among the bunch.

All of the current production-model standalone HMDs only come with a single, 3DoF controller, but this is often more than adequate for interacting within the virtual environment. The training experiences that we create for standalone HMDs are often choice-based, cognitive learning experiences that place the user in a fully rendered environment, often with other characters to interact with and decisions to make.

These interactions allow users to select proper medications and instruct other characters in the environment to perform specific tasks. Most interactions are “triggered” and then play out based on the decisions made by the user. In these 3DoF HMDs with 3DoF controllers, most interactions are not one-to-one, meaning the user is not going to give a shot, place an IV, or start chest compressions themselves, because of the way their bodies are represented in the space.

And Now, the Big One

The current major players in the “full VR rig” consumer market are the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. Both of these setups require a high-spec, gaming-style PC setup and some room to move around in. The general price estimate that we tell our clients are that they should expect to pay around $2,000 per station; which includes the gaming PC, monitor, and Oculus or HTC Vive rig. With a setup like this and enough room to move around, the user can really become fully immersed in their virtual world.

This type of setup is ideal for “Immersive Training Labs” that are similar to the computer labs of the 1980’s and ‘90’s. By setting up multiple stations in a single room, students or trainees can have access to virtual training modules at their convenience. This setup also facilitates multiple playthroughs and a more thorough understanding of the information being taught.

Our virtual reality, orthopedic surgical training modules that we are creating for Duke University, allow the students in the course unlimited access to training for specific procedures which greatly enhances the very limited time and interaction that they get in a cadaver lab — not to mention, it is much less expensive over time. Thinking of setting up an Immersive Training Lab at your university, college, or teaching institution? Contact us and let our experts guide you.

Coming in 2019

The future of VR is very bright. In 2019 we’ll see a greater influx of more powerful, standalone headsets from both Oculus and HTC Vive. These up-and-coming kits will offer full, 6DoF interaction from both the headset AND the controllers without any wires or external computers needed.

I hope this information helps kick off the conversation and gives you a better understanding of the current state of VR. Give us a call and let’s see what we can build together.

President/CEO & Co-founder of BioflightVR — we create virtual reality training for healthcare professionals. www.bioflightvr.com