Introducing Next Generation Telepath VR Movement Features

Aldin
Aldin
May 6, 2020 · 10 min read

Some time ago we introduced our Telepath movement system, designed ground-up to let us physically move more like we do in reality with reduced risk of simulation sickness. Easy to learn, flexible and comfortable, made to enable certain user experiences and scenarios that were impossible with any other system we have tried to date. Since then, our measurements showed 90% of Waltz of the Wizard users continued using Telepath after being notified with a prompt that other options were offered. We want to start by thanking everyone for the feedback to date, which remains a cornerstone in how our team develops experiences!

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New features include Presence Control, Smooth Motion and Arc Roll.

To date we have have only shown the most basic settings of Telepath and today we are rolling out the first round of more advanced features and options …plus new enemies in the labyrinth area to try everything out in Waltz of the Wizard: Extended Edition on PC! We can’t wait to hear what you think (the good and the bad!). These new Telepath features are being rolled out in preparation of our upcoming expansions of Waltz of the Wizard: Extended Edition, both the big expansions to the world and gameplay, as well as hand-tracking that will soon become available on Oculus Quest.

New features include Presence Control and a Smooth option, along with Arc Roll which allows quicker drawing and more effortless control over where you are going. Presence Control enables control over Telepath through your physical presence and movements, making Telepath more intuitive and flexible while reducing simulation sickness risks even further.

To summarize what Telepath is all about we’ve put together two videos, narrated by CEO of Aldin! The first is a fun and light overview of Telepath in 100 seconds — the latter is a 4 minute deep dive into the mechanics and usage of the system.

Introduction to Telepath VR Locomotion in 100 seconds.
A deeper exploration of the usage and design of Telepath.

Join our new Discord to participate in discussions and we greatly appreciate feedback and help in spreading the word about this update!

Prioritizing Physical Engagement & Reducing Simulation Sickness

Virtual reality’s uniqueness over past mediums is that we are physically present in the virtual world, moving and interacting as we do in reality. That natural physical movement is key to VR — artificial locomotion is a crutch to solve the problem that VR play areas limit how far we can physically walk. To preserve as much of believable physical behavior as possible, the best fake movement system is arguably one that stays out of our way and encourages ‘real’ movement. That’s Telepath.

While no artificial locomotion system is bullet proof when it comes to simulation sickness, Telepath employs several techniques to minimize it, with many users reporting it being the only continuous locomotion system they can tolerate. Past measurements showed 90% of Waltz of the Wizard users continued using Telepath after being notified with a prompt that other options were offered.

Problems with Modern Standards in VR Locomotion

Whether it’s continuous movement or teleportation, most VR locomotion standards to date have commanded user attention and mental commitment in a way that reality does not; requiring constant and continuous button presses for every inch moved. That sort of moment-to-moment control over artificial movement makes perfect sense for monitors where we are not there and need to boost the user’s physical relationship with a virtual world behind a pane of glass — but now that we are physically immersed in VR, physical engagement becomes important and fake mechanics questionable.

With thumbstick movement, the user’s mind becomes torn between moving for real and using artificial movement, requiring use of fingers and occupying thoughts with fake mechanics. Trying to do both at the same time is uncomfortable and ultimately makes the user hesitant to move for real, reducing natural engagement with the world.

Thumbstick movement

The controls created for conventional monitors typically use 2D thumbsticks, divide our attention and require constant occupation of our hands. Meanwhile the unpredictable artificial movement of the camera also discourages users from moving physically. This works great when we are not ‘there’ and have no other use for our hands — but in VR it makes users go into what we refer to as ‘tank mode’ where they physically stand still and drive around like a tank. The constant attention and control of artificial mechanics means we move less like we do in reality — decreasing believable physical engagement. In comparison, Telepath measurably increases real physical engagement.

Teleporting

Teleporting entirely bypasses movement, thereby causing disorientation and sacrificing natural sense of journey through the world. Moreover, Teleporting literally prevents certain world designs and experiences. How are AI characters supposed to believably deal with the user being able to unbelievably blink out of existence and appear somewhere else? It’s awkward at best or, at worst, for many types of games (and other experiences like training) it’s like having a disruptive cheat-mode.

New Features

Today we are rolling out three major changes that dramatically alter the experience when using Telepath. The labyrinth area in Waltz of the Wizard, which we rolled out alongside the first version of Telepath, was actually not designed to be a perfect showcase of Telepath. It was designed to properly test telepath’s strengths and weaknesses in intense and challenging situations. The feedback we gathered from the release has helped better understand what’s important in our first round of updates.

Presence Control Through Physical Presence Analysis

Instead of artificial button presses, Telepath uses physical presence data to determine user intent in an almost telepathic way, attempting to adapt to what you’re doing in real-time. We call this Presence Control. If you whiz past an ammo crate and decide to stop and break it, you simply step out and do it. Telepath will halt while you do and continue to your destination once you’re ready, all without a single button press. If you move behind cover in an intense shootout, Telepath will pause. If you need to dodge a flying arrow, Telepath prioritizes that physical movement to avoid interfering.

When you slightly change direction in real life, does it feel like you’re consciously pressing a button? Or does it just sort of ‘happen’? That’s the experience we try to emulate, with additional control through your physical body-language. Once again, these are early-stage advanced features that we expect to grow and improve over time, and we look forward to feedback helping us drive those improvements.

Smooth Motion Mode

We were delighted to see requests for a smooth option from smooth locomotion users! Just as with the step-based mode, Smooth Telepath leaves your hands free to interact and uses presence analysis to adjust its behavior to encourage physical movement and reduce simulation sickness. In addition to the physical liberation, many should also find it significantly less sickness-inducing compared to free thumbstick movement. However, we want to note specifically that if you’re a veteran smooth movement user, the transition is likely to be uncomfortable initially! We look forward to feedback on this from smooth locomotion users — please make suggestions at will in our Discord! :)

Arc Roll

Arc Roll is an improvement on conventional teleporting arcs, where instead of having the arc constrained to heading and distance, it can roll sideways with a twist of the wrist. This offers greater precision and control over the path while making it possible to draw faster and more effortlessly. Practical scenarios beyond faster drawing are examples like more easily navigating around obstacles and corners. The act of drawing only takes a part of a second once users have gotten the hang of it.

Next Steps

The first round of features for physical presence analysis are now out and your feedback is important to help prioritize future improvements. We envision these features growing and expanding over time, constantly making Telepath more intuitive and capable of doing exactly what you want at the right time. These include both we expect to roll out in the immediate future to make the system even more natural and address usability issues, as well as longer term features will integrate new data like neural input to make controls even more subliminal, once such hardware interfaces become readily available.

Join our new Discord to participate in discussions and we really appreciate help in spreading the word about this update!

Telepath FAQ & Tips!

We are including a list below that we expect to update and then likely make available on our website in near future. Please join our Discord to submit feedback (or send an email to support at aldin.io) and let us know if you believe there are questions that belong on this list.

TIP: Draw roughly, frequently.

You do not need to complete moving along a path. Rather than taking great care in plotting a path and completing that path before drawing a new one, try to get the hang of drawing roughly where you want to go and adjusting on the fly. You’ll get more precise over time and this will help give you greater freedom of movement that approaches the precise and constant freedom that thumbstick locomotion or walking in reality has to offer. Instead, you can also move more physically for short-range movements, with the new Presence Control features Telepath will help you do that more confidently.

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Draw often — it only takes a part of a second! You do not need to complete a path you draw, just draw roughly and adjust on the fly with a flick of your wrist.

Q: What is Telepath?

Telepath is an immersive VR locomotion system developed by Aldin for enhanced sense of presence, greater physical freedom and reduced simulation sickness. The Presence Control features let us physically move more and believably closer to how we move in reality, intuitively controlling fake movement through real movement.

Next generation features like Presence Control are available right now in Waltz of the Wizard: Extended Edition!

Q: How can I go faster?

Telepath will generally move faster if you are facing the direction you are moving, but you can also make running motions with your hands to run :-)

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You can run by making running motions.

Q: How can I stop?

Point to the ground by your feet and press once.

Q: Do I NEED to draw a path?

No. Point into the distance and press once and Telepath with automatically generate a path to that point. Expect future improvements to this functionality.

Q: I want freedom to change directions… why be constrained to a track?

It is a common misconception about the usage of Telepath that you become stuck in moving along a path. Although it is technically constrained to a path while a path is active, the act of drawing paths or stopping takes only a part of a second. Rather than taking great care in plotting and then sticking to that path, users fairly quickly start drawing paths or pointing to the ground to stop more frequently, in an effortless and subconscious manner.

This question in particular comes up among experienced thumbstick users, so we will address thumbstick movement specifically. When we use thumbstick movement we generally don’t change directions many times per second. (Or if we do that’s what occupies our mind and definitely reduces what would otherwise have been physical movements). We move for some time in a general direction then change course. Keep in mind that, especially for new users or non-gamers, it takes days or weeks to become familiar enough with thumbstick movement to use it effectively! Once you become familiar with the drawing motions of Telepath, you can draw extremely fast — our hands can move at 200–300km per hour — meaning you can change course at any time. Telepath’s new Arc Roll feature makes the act of drawing even more effortless.

Theoretically, key differences between an experienced thumbstick user and Telepath user is that thumbstick users physically hold still more while pressing and holding a thumbstick continuously, while Telepath users perform more real physical movements for short-range direction changes and dodges, with hands and fingers free from fake mechanics in the meantime. That alone brings our behavior and experience closer to what it would be if we were really ‘there’.

Q: How do you know Telepath increases physical movement?

For several months following the release of Telepath we collected (non-personally identifiable) data about locomotion choices. The introduction of the experience included a tutorial for locomotion and a prompt that alerted users that multiple locomotion options were offered, including teleporting and thumbstick movement. Data showed around 90% of users continued choosing Telepath, and physical behavior measurements demonstrated greater physical engagement over thumbstick movement. New Presence Control features help encourage and increase physical movement even more. We have additionally received reports of Telepath being the only linear system some users tolerate, and frequent notes that users find it comfortable.

Q: I feel discomfort, is that normal? :(

Unfortunately all artificial motion in VR immediately introduces risk of simulation sickness. For some, discomfort and simulation sickness can be expected initially in Telepath while the steps or smooth movement is becoming familiar. For many this should become easier with more use of the system. For others Telepath may not become entirely free of discomfort in its current form, but we do have additional comfort features that we plan to add in the near future.

However, we have received significant indications that it’s more comfortable and less prone to inducing simulation sickness. The fundamental theories upon which the design is based also entails reduced discomfort severity.

Q: Do I need to use Telepath to play Waltz of the Wizard?

A: No. We plan to keep offering other locomotion options.

Q: Is this the full feature set of the system — or is there more to come?

A: Even with the features we’re introducing now — Presence Control, Arc Roll and Smooth Movement — , we see Telepath as being far from completed. We expect to gather feedback from this update and push further improvements, in addition to having a list already of features that we haven’t shown or talked about to date. Near-future features include comfort options and usability improvements. Our goal is to make artificial movement as natural and intuitive as real movement.

Beyond the near-term updates we have in mind, we also have plans to integrate future hardware technologies such as eye-tracking and neural input, once such hardware interfaces become readily available to consumers.

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