Introducing the Telepath VR Locomotion System

Today we are introducing a new locomotion system that we call Telepath, designed to offer more engaging movement in VR. With it comes a significant expansion to Waltz of the Wizard — an entirely new area full of traps and supernatural guardians is now accessible from the main scene, developed to showcase some of the new sensations and possibilities that Telepath offers.

Telepath offers intuitive VR locomotion, encouraging natural physical engagement.

The Locomotion Challenge in VR

When we’re in virtual reality, we want the same sense of physical freedom as we do in the real world. We want to move and interact naturally within a world that feels believable. A large part of that is the ability to physically walk over distances in a natural manner, but in VR we’re limited by our play areas. So what can be done? The best solution would be infinite areas to physically run around in, but in reality most of us are limited to spaces that fit inside a home.

There are two main approaches to artificial VR locomotion in today’s landscape: Continuous linear locomotion and Teleporting. The former mimics the linear fashion of how we move in the real world, but leads to simulation sickness and can destabilize and deter physical movement. Teleporting on the other hand simply bypasses movement entirely in an artificial manner, thereby causing disorientation and sacrificing the experience of naturally moving through the world. Another awful side-effect of Teleporting is that it becomes more challenging to design a believable world around it. How are AI characters supposed to deal with the user being able to instantly blink out of existence and appear somewhere else? For many types of games and experiences, it’s like having a disruptive cheat-mode active at all times.

Whether it’s linear or teleportation, most VR locomotion systems to date have also demanded the user’s attention and mental commitment in a way that reality does not; requiring button presses or pointing gestures for every single inch the user wishes to move. That sort of moment-to-moment control over artificial movement makes perfect sense for monitors where we need to boost the user’s physical relationship with a virtual world that’s behind a pane of glass — but now that we are physically immersed in VR, continuous control of artificial locomotion is questionable. The user’s mind becomes torn between moving physically on one hand, and artificially simulating physical movement on the other. Trying to do both at the same time is uncomfortable and ultimately makes the user hesitant to move physically, gradually detracting from his natural engagement with the world.

Artificial locomotion may never feel like an adequate substitute for physical movement, but there’s no solid way around play area limitations. For now our best option is to make VR locomotion systems that feel as natural and unintrusive as possible, for the broadest range of users.

Introduction to Telepath

Telepath is a new approach to VR locomotion that combines elements of teleporting and linear movement. Our design goals were not to make conventional locomotion work in VR, but to devise an intuitive system that better emulates the experience of how we accomplish locomotion in reality and better preserves our freedom to move physically.

Telepath’s path drawing is intuitive, effortless and precise.

Telepath is a path-based system that lets users instantly define where to go and how to get there with an intuitive wave of the hand. It offers linear movement that’s comfortable and affords users more time to focus on being physically present in the world. In other words, it gets artificial locomotion out of the user’s way as much as possible to make room for physical engagement.

Automated movement offers more time to concentrate on physical actions.

The controls do not require repeated and continuous button presses for movement like many conventional locomotion schemes. We wanted to avoid constantly keeping the user’s mind on the act of artificial movement. In real life we don’t consciously think about every single step we take — we intuitively decide to go somewhere and then our feet naturally carry us until we decide otherwise. This is a core experience that our solution aims to capture. Drawing a path becomes an act that’s easy to do frequently and effortlessly with precision — taking only a fraction of a second once you get the hang of it. This makes it easy to rapidly change where you’re going, affording greater sense of freedom and control.

Control over walking speed enhanced by natural arm-swinging.

Telepath lets us decide a destination and the way to get there in a single sweep, then automates movement in steps between waypoints where we get time to move physically (overall maintaining human walking speed). In other words, automation offers more mental freedom to concentrate on physical actions during the artificial movement process, while waypoints afford a better opportunity to perform them with confidence — dodging swords, picking up objects or taking a step to peek around a corner. Physical user action can also tie into Telepath’s controls and the implementation being releasing today includes swinging your arms in a running motion to move faster.

The end-result is an intuitive system that makes VR locomotion feel more natural. A linear locomotion approach that encourages greater physical engagement and simultaneously minimizes risk of discomfort.

Next Steps

What we’re releasing today is Telepath’s basic implementation, out of a number of additional options and variations under development. Our testing has shown that while Telepath may seem alien at first, it quickly becomes familiar and delivers an exceptionally liberating and natural experience. We look forward to sharing more about Telepath’s possibilities in the near future.

As we have for all these years, we encourage and welcome feedback from our fans and the VR community. Ultimately only you can answer how Telepath compares to other solutions already out there!

Thank you and happy Halloween!