Making Small Spaces Feel Large: Practical Illusions in Virtual Reality

Evan Suma, MxR Lab, Institute of Creative Technologies, University of Southern California
November 5, 2015 - 12:30 PM
130 Woodward
Over the past few years, virtual reality has experienced a remarkable resurgence. Fueled by a proliferation of consumer-level head-mounted displays and motion tracking devices, an unprecedented quantity of immersive experiences and content has emerged on both desktop and mobile VR platforms. Unfortunately, interaction fidelity has not kept pace with the advances in technology. Many VR experiences to date require seated use or limit body movement within a small area, and require the use of handheld devices for navigation through the virtual world. These device-mediated locomotion mechanisms do not fully replicate the physical and perceptual cues associated with genuine movement, and subsequently often fall short in inducing the evocative illusion that the user has been transported to a distant place. In this talk, I will introduce a variety of perceptual illusions that can be leveraged to overcome the spatial limitations imposed by the real world. This approach, known as redirection, has stunning potential to fool the senses. I will present a series of perceptual experiments that convinced users that they were walking along straight paths while actually traveling in circles, or that the virtual environment was considerably larger than it actually was. Additionally, I will discuss algorithmic approaches that harness these illusions for dynamic exploration of arbitrary virtual environments, thereby enabling the creation of next-generation VR systems that can automatically steer users away from the boundaries of the physical space while they walk infinitely through potentially limitless virtual worlds. Evan Suma is the Associate Director of the MxR Lab at the Institute for Creative Technologies and a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Southern California. He received his Ph.D. in 2010 from the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His interests broadly include the research and development of techniques and technologies that enhance immersive virtual environments and 3D human-computer interfaces. He is also particularly interested in leveraging virtual reality for the empirical study of human perception and cognition. Dr. Suma has written or co-authored over 60 academic publications, eight of which have been recognized with conference awards, and is a five-time SIGGRAPH presenter. His gesture interaction middleware toolkit (FAAST) has been widely adopted by the research and hobbyist communities, and his online research videos have been viewed over 2.4 million times. His team received first place at the 2015 SIGGRAPH Immersive Realities AR/VR Contest.