Researchers and Companies Keep VR Momentum Rolling Into 2022
Advancement in VR (virtual reality) is getting underway in 2022 with companies and researchers exploring new VR applications in robotics and human-machine interface (HMI), despite large companies like Apple facing setbacks.
The world of VR has been a hot spot for many companies and researchers, many of who have been investing in creating better technology.
Immersive technology features virtual reality in which humans interact with an artificial 3D virtual environment via interactive media (or wearables) such as head-mounted displays (HMDs), goggles, headsets, gloves, etc. Each of these devices often aims to create the same feeling as if they were in the real world.
An example HMD block diagram. Image used courtesy of STMicroelectronics
Researchers and engineers have, over the years, made significant development to expand the use cases of immersive technology in an attempt to solve problems in a wide range of sectors, including medicals, military, communications, entertainment, gaming applications, and so on.
With that in mind, this article will go over some of the challenges of VR design and some recent advancements in VR devices.
Challenges for Immersive Technology
Despite the growth and interest, companies still face challenges in designing interactive media users employ in virtual reality applications.
Some of these include the motion sickness experienced while using a head-mounted display.
In addition, a paper recently published by researchers suggests that immersive technology still suffers drawbacks when used for remote research.
Due to accurate feedback information, a closed-loop human-machine interface system performs better than a conventional human-interface system. Image used courtesy of Liu et al
Furthermore, researchers and designers are still facing challenges in developing virtual reality applications when haptic interfaces are employed as interactive media. For instance, haptics gloves without multimodal actuators could create a bad user experience.
Apple Suffers Setbacks in Mixed-reality Headset Debut
Adding to the challenges of VR device design, Apple’s hopes to debut its mixed-reality headset at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June may have been dashed by challenges that are rumored to be related to overheating, cameras and software.
In an attempt to salvage the situation, high-powered processors were suggested to solve the overheating issues. Overall, Apple hopes to fix these issues and introduce the mixed-reality high-end device by 2023 and join other tech giants like Meta in the immersive technology market.
State-of-the-art Virtual Reality Solutions
During CES 2022 came the introduction of HaritoraX, a full-body tracking suit for virtual reality and augmented reality applications in the "metaverse."
The manufacturer, Shiftall, claims that the device is based on a geomagnetic and acceleration sensor (9-axis IMU), which enables tracking in any stance.
A close-up view of a virtual reality tracking suit. Image used courtesy of Shiftall
As mobile-based VR designs may not meet the user's demands for delivering an efficient real-time performance in a complex interactive environment, researchers at the University of Washington proposed a combination of hardware and software solutions named Q-VR that provides a low latency high-quality mobile VR.
Block diagram for University of Washington's hardware and software solution. Image used courtesy of Xie et al
This solution promises to improve end-to-end performance speed up in mobile VR.
Human Machine Interface Meets Virtual Reality
Another recent advancement comes from researchers at the City University of Hong Kong who have introduced a novel virtual reality application that allows humans to interact with robots.
Sensors, actuators, and interconnects of integrated circuits (IC) with polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) are the major components of the device.
An overview of the overall system Image used courtesy of Liu et al
Traditional HMI systems generally take information from body parts without a feedback system for proper self-coordinating behaviors in a dynamic virtual reality environment.
However, this novel solution employs a closed-loop HMI based on skin-integrated electronics for motion tracking and haptic feedback through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and the internet.
The researchers claim that the electronic skin-integrated closed-loop HMI system promises a wide range of use cases of robotic virtual reality, which users could achieve by interacting with robots in a combined sensual manner, including vision, touching, and hearing in a virtual environment.
All in all, the state of VR hardware and devices is still working towards becoming a more mainstream and adaptable technology. The next step would be for some of this research to possibly make it to market and for companies to overcome some of the setbacks this technology continually faces.