The Theme of my thesis is bringing VR and physical interface together to enhance the immersion effect and believability of the digital world inside the headset. In order to accomplish this I make use of Virtual reality headset, a physical construction, electronic components and game design. The project is called Virtual Reality Space Adventure, where the player assumes the role of the spaceship pilot stranded in space and is trying to figure out what is happening and where are they. In real world the player sits in the physical version of the cockpit that is visible in VR, and is able to physically interact with elements in the cockpit, through touch. This way in addition to the sense of sight and hearing it will be possible to bring the sense of touch into the experience. So far I have been researching two types of sources: Primarily academic sources which were mostly published in the 90s, when VR was emerging but was inaccessible to the public due to its cost. Researches had big plans for VR and were considering different applications of it: for example Rae Earnshaw has been iterating on the idea of using the VR for flight simulators, as a mean to train pilots on the ground without the immediate need of flying, additionally to that the means of increasing immersion for the said pilots were discussed, such as simulating oxygen deficiency, servo-motors installed in the seats, as well as fully mobile platform when the trainee would be able to experience all kinds of physical overloads. The introduction of physical components into the virtual experience has also been discussed by Paul Milgram who has looked into taxonomy of mixed reality, a combination of virtual reality and physical world. As well as various aspects of VR that would make the experience more believable, like animation quality and frame rates. Additionally I explored some areas involving augmented reality and its interweaving with the physical components. Tamura H has been using augmented reality and physical space to create a mixed reality experience and using physical components to perform functions in the digital setting. Secondarily I have been looking at the current games and projects released and in development. For example EVE Valkyrie was one of the first games to implement VR into the spaceflight gameplay and has done so quite successfully, judging from the personal experience. Alternatively several other projects such as Elite: Dangerous’ player Marcus B. has built a custom cockpit in his basement in order to increase immersion in the game. The cockpit consists of physical components: multiple touchpads that perform various functions in the game and projectors projecting on the front and the sides of the cockpit.
For the current progress on the project for the last semester I have been focusing on the prototyping and testing the viability of the idea, by constructing physical small scale prototypes and then building digital models to match the physical. As well as plugging several iterations of the models in unity and seeing how it could possibly be implemented. As for the actual production I was able to establish the materials I need to create this project. I have chosen to use wooden boards for the support structure, cover it with Styrofoam filling to give the shape to the ship. And finally cover the interior with a thin layer or plastic to make the touch more comfortable. I decided to stay away from metal because it’s much more difficult to work with and more expensive as well. While being able to work with wood in home environment, it’s not possible to work with metal in the same conditions.