Body Switching in Virtual Reality

An Overview

The Problem

There are established conventions in traditional media for switching characters in a game.The player may intervene in the action to manually select their desired character. The camera may shift around with accompanying audio-visual feedback etc. The same conventions cannot be copy-pasted to VR so, how do you convey a character change in virtual reality, while maintaining a sense of presence?

The Solution

The Logistics

  • Timeline: January 2018 - May 2018
  • Teammates: Charlie Denton, Edward Zhang
  • Oculus Rift Touch | Room Scale Experience

My Role

  • Lead Developer
  • Utilized Oculus SDK and Unity to Program Functionality
  • Conducted User Testing
  • Represented team at Oculus NextGen Symposium

The Story

Exploring the space

Following the doctrine of our professor, Janet Murray, we understood the importance of a compelling narrative. We were inspired by the tv show Game of Thrones, and how the character Bran Stark can warg into nearby people and animals.

Bram Stark controlling the body of a nearby character. Credit: Game of Thrones

We framed the final experience around a catastrophic failure aboard a spaceship only the player and their robot companion could fix. They must work symbiotically to repair the ship and restore power. The player starts in a room-scale jail cell experience. In the room the player has a chair, and a map.They overhear a ship warning them of a ship wide power outage that needs to be fixed. To encourage interaction, the player only has a chair in their cell.This chair is mapped to a physical chair in the environment. Once the player is seated both physically and virtually they can pull down the merge headset to switch in to their companion.

Managing the switch

One of the early technical challenges was switching a player around in a room scale experience. In VR if you shift the player around too much they not only become disoriented, but the bounds of the room continue to shift and change.

Once addressing this problem we knew we needed our player to stay still after they switched . We eventually landed on a simple spinning desk chair. This allowed for the player to stay stationary, but spin in their chair for a 360 degree view of the environment.

When the player switches into their robot companion they are now seated in the desk chair ready for flight. If at any time the player needs to go back to the cell to view the map they can fly onto a merging station to transfer back to their human state, get up out of the physical chair and be back to the room scale experience.

Conveying the switch

  • Utilized a cutscene transition with audio cues to convey the switch
  • Physical movement of pulling down headset mimics a rollercoaster "buckling in" action
  • Environmental changes once switched - environment changes drastically in scale

More Details about this project coming soon!

Next Work
Portfolio of Morgan Ott ⛰ ☀️