Microsoft’s researchers have been looking at the problem of rapidly moving around in a VR environment, and have discovered a novel solution which preserves speed and accuracy while keeping users immersed and feeling embodied in their virtual environment.
Existing solutions for rapidly moving around a virtual map include portals, which can be disorientating, and Seven-League Boots, which allows users to rapidly move in one direction while maintaining normal speeds to the left and right.
Microsoft reports that Seven-League Boots can also be disorientating, as computer systems find it difficult to predict the exact heading users intend to go to, meaning users often have to compensate by moving very slowly and carefully, defeating the object.
Microsoft’s novel solution is to scale up the user in all dimensions, as in the image above, allowing them to move rapidly and precisely in what is now a mini-map. The change in perspective can, however, make it difficult to find and explore a terrain, leading to Microsoft’s second solution, which is to maintain the user’s eyes at street level, as if their body has sunk below the ground, as in the second picture above.
We explored three methods for increasing users’ effective travel speed in VR: (1) Ground-Level Scaling increases users’ avatar size, allowing them to walk farther in the virtual world. (2) Eye-Level Scaling enables users to walk through a World in Miniature, while maintaining their eye level. (3) SevenLeague Boots creates the illusion that every step is longer in the virtual world, by amplifying users’ movement along their walking path. We conducted a study comparing these methods and found that Seven-League Boots is less preferred by users and positional accuracy diminishes at high speed gains using this method. Moreover, users significantly alter their walking behavior depending on the method used, the speed gain, and how much they feel embodied. At high gains users took larger steps in the Ground-Level Scaling condition and smaller steps in the Seven-League Boots. Users also slowed down at high gains using the Seven-League Boots.
Their findings were published in a paper called “I’m a Giant: Walking in Large Virtual Environments at High Speed Gains” in the CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Proceedings (CHI 2019), May 4–9, 2019. Read the paper for the full methodology and results here.