Using Bots in Virtual Reality

Honestly, when bots appeared I didn’t understand them. As users advocate I was sure that application or website with good UX is much more efficient than any bot. Only after everybody got own bot, I realized what I missed. My point that bots aren’t efficient enough was right. But beside this bots had the value that didn’t own a lot of websites, especially sophisticated ones:

Chat Bots are Effortless.

Efficiency is secondary. For example on the website to reach some action a user should click two times. In the chat, he should reply four times to a bot. On paper bots are useless, and nobody should use them. But in reality, user prefer give simple answers, instead of applying micro efforts to think where to click.

While researching interactions in virtual reality, I noticed the same pattern of effortless/efficient but with the different bias.

On paper VR with trackable controllers, or even with tracking of hands should give us much more efficiency comparable with regular UI interactions. For example in an application for 3d modelling next functions: moving in 3 directions, moving in 3 surfaces, rotation in 3 directions, and scaling in 3 directions, can be easily swapped by natural gesture grab and move two hands.

Leap Motion

It was on paper. But in reality, everything is not so easy. To do this user should lift up both hands and move them in the air. Everyone will get tired very fast. For regular lazy user is much preferable click ten times by finger than lift up both hands. And it’s fair.

Some of VR interactions are natural and can theoretically replace UI. But there are a lot of functions that was created originally in flat UI world. Typing password, scrolling a long list in the drop-down don’t have natural analogues in VR. So we should find a way to replace them or somehow to simplify a flow for avoiding using patterns that need much more efforts comparable with UI.

Exciting detail is that the range of possible interactions in messaging apps is also limited. That gives a lot of restrictions for a bot in this environment.
So, if we compare characteristics of interactions in different environments we’ll get next picture:

Characteristics of interactions in different environments

What if we would use the same “step by step approach” from chatbots, also in virtual reality? It’ll help us to make interactions in VR the same effortless as using a bot on a mobile phone. But in VR it’s even better because a user is maximum involved in a story and can better keep path.

To make some test I build the simple demo of travel adviser in A-Frame. Here a user can choose only from the limited amount of options. But it’s working very easy. The user doesn’t need to touch or press anything. This demo works even in the cardboard goggles. The user just needs to rotate head slightly and gaze into the required portal.

Also, the user can move around the scene to have a closer look in any of portals.

Full Video

This demo proved that breaking complicated tasks to smaller is an excellent practice that works in VR as well. It makes the experience in VR effortless and simple again.

So my verdict on this point is:

🤖 Bots + 🕶 Virtual Reality = 💥

Voice based interfaces which are related to bots are much more complicated to create and integrate. But voice interactions definitely have a big future in virtual reality. By table of comparing interactions on different platforms it looks very promising:

Characteristics of voice based interfaces

So I’m looking forward to exploring how this technology can be combined with virtual reality.

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