CAPTURING THE SENSE OF VIRTUAL TOUCH.
The Oculus Rift launched with an Xbox controller as the primary input for manipulating its virtual worlds. It works well, especially for anyone who’s ever held a gaming controller, but the holy grail of VR is total immersion. The soon-to-be released Oculus Touch gets us one step closer in each hand. The Touch Controllers telegraph a user’s hands into 3D virtual space… and it’s a one-to-one scale. When you move your hands, the virtual hands move in exact relation to your own. It’s uncanny, and just about everything we’ve ever wanted this side of Second Life’s triumphant return.
Continuing the successful Transformation Campaign we helped create with the amazing team at Oculus, we imagined a social setting where a group of friends can relax, play some games, and wrap their own hands around the Touch. We captured that moment of awe that VR provides when you look down at your virtual hands for the first time. That moment where you completely buy in and engage in the world wrapped around your vision. The spot followed the same cadence established in the stand alone campaign we built for Oculus the first time around. The space around the gamers transformed, allowing us to capture their reactions and excitement just before stepping into gameplay. Only this time, we had spectators.
We’ve had our fair share of VR these days, we’ve played just about everything, and have begun to toy with making things for ourselves. VR is a known to us, but even so, we’re still floored every time we pull the Rift over our field of view. That sensation of being transported just doesn’t go away. When we watch our friends, coworkers, or family step in for themselves – we’re as glued to the monitor as they are to the Rift. We live vicariously through their experience. When they’re in awe, we’re equally excited. With The Rift, whatever we see in our virtual world gets projected onto our monitors and our TVs for all to see. It allows others to be there with you, cheering you on as you float through zero gravity, shred the perfect guitar solo, or making fun of you when you fail to shoot that Wild West zombie ducking behind the saloon bar.
The beauty of VR is that the immersion is different every time.Sometimes you’re in the shoes of a gunslinger, other times you’re in a fist fight with a dead soldier, and others, like in Ready at Dawn’s “Lone Echo,” you’re in zero gravity using the Touch Controllers to push and pull your way through the confines of space. A part of the fun of this campaign is translating the experiences in VR and discovering how we can transform the physical space around our talent. In the case of zero gravity, we built an array of elements that would begin to lose their gravity and float upward, gradually sending our talent into the world of “Lone Echo.”
EXPLAINING THE TECHNOLOGY.
When you pick up a set of Touch Controllers and don the Rift, the technology bleeds away to the experience. It’s effortless…it just works. The 1:1 relation between the position of your hands relative to your VR hands is uncanny. Yet, as effortless as the end experience is, there is a ton of innovative technology packed into such a small package. Finding a way to speak to those accomplishments is what we were tasked with in the Touch Demo Video.
Oculus really does have one of the most well designed VR products. The Touch Controllers feel like an extension of your hand. And there’s a reason for that. Every button has a sensor tracking the users hand position. Open your hand, and the controller knows. Give a thumbs up, and it knows that too. Not only are the controllers tracking your general position in 3D space, they’re also tracking your gestures. To speak to this, we came up with a couple different techniques.
Data Visualization. The Rift and the Touch Controllers are all about generating and translating data. We wanted to visualize this in a clean, simple way using data points along the controller that visually tracked to the sensors. Thin graphic lines accented the users movement and charted the data the controllers were logging.
Split Screen Gestures. To illustrate the 1:1 relationship between hand gestures in real life and those that are recreated in VR we used a simple, but effective, split screen. The intention here was to take the data generated by the controller and use it to drive a 3D representation of the user’s hand. We mapped movements to the hands in actual games and also carried it to a more graphic blue halo.
Contrary to popular belief, VR can be a social sport.
TRANSFORMING REALITY…5 TIMES
When the user steps into Rift, their world physically changes around them. With these spots, we (the viewer) witness that transformation with the user. We see what they see, before the headset drops in front of their eyes. Their reality bleeds into the virtual reality they’re about to step into. With this anthem spot, we essentially had 5 different games we were featuring: Dead and Buried (which for us is a stand out title) puts a pair of revolvers in your hands and lets you loose on a stylized wild west world. Yes please.
Ripcoil puts a Tron-like disc in your hands to play the most elaborate game of Pong we’ve ever seen. VR Basketball makes you feel like you can pull off moves like LeBron in Game 7. Wilson’s Heart puts you in the body of a psych ward patient in a post apocalyptic hospital. Unspoken lets you wield fire and ice like you were some kind of wizard in The Lord of The Rings. Every game is completely different, and required a different look and feel to the design of the transformation.
Rift transforms your reality; Touch lets you manipulate it.
THE USER EXPERIENCE: All Oculus Touch games are rendered from a first person perspective, it makes no sense otherwise. This introduces a common mechanic to all of our elevated gameplay: Hands. We’ve dealt with hands before, but this time, they were very much a part of that moment of awe before diving into gameplay. The moment where the unbelievable becomes believable – and virtual realities become real. We had to capture that by creating a one-to-one relation between gameplay and live action. We worked directly with the developers of the games, using their assets to re-create elevated gameplay. We finessed the assets we would see in the foreground, refining some models and re-creating others, to serve the need of our narrative. Some things in Dead and Buried weren’t meant to be shattered – and we wanted to shatter just about everything with gunfire. Along with the models, we elevated the lighting setup, rendering a world that feels as immersive in video form as the game feels when you’re actually playing.
Human beings make a lot of subtle movements. Nobody really just stands still or leans perfectly fluid to one side. That nuance is important in conveying what it feels like to be in the Rift. The entire experience needs to feel human. To that end, we worked with Oculus to use software that captures the 3D tracking data the Rift was using to track the user. With that data, we had the exact head movements and hand movements of the user playing the games. We incorporated this into our animation, and blended them to take the edge off the real time track’s movements. Turns out, human beings move WAY too much – we had to temper it.
As with the initial round of Transformation spots, the idea was to capture the feeling of being in another world. Your mind fills in the blanks in VR, elevating the experience. You feel as if wood splinters around you in Dead and Buried, even if it doesn’t. We added particle effects throughout the gameplay to heighten the sensation of being in the middle of a gunfight. Splinters shatter from your cover. Lanterns explode and fall to the ground. Every bullet is tracked to a destination, creating an impact unique to itself.
The transformation affects the audience as much as the player.
THE SPECTATOR EXPERIENCE: At the same time the user is experiencing 180 frames a second split to each eye, their experience is being rendered to an HD monitor in front of them. This gives spectators a window into what the Rift user is experiencing. They can witness their friends’ field of view and see what they see in real time. In the same way that a movie can absorb us completely into the confines of a 16×9 frame, so does watching a friend step into Rift. If you’ve experienced Rift before, you bring that first hand experience along with you, getting that much more into what you’re watching your friend do. We can tell you from experience, the world beyond that monitor frame melts away and you feel as immersed in their game as you would your own.
This gave us a 3rd person perspective to witness the Transformations through; a new angle to capture the feeling of gameplay. We created a language where the game world would mix with the real world, drawing a line directly behind the user. We used elements from the game world to create a natural transition into reality – as if the effect feathers into the real world. Boarded up windows for Dead and Buried, or the littered mine shaft of Wilson’s Heart, we wanted to capture the feeling of immersion from the perspective of the spectators and capture that sensation of the game bleeding into the real world.
Live action was shot using practical lighting from the game, immersing them in what they’re watching. We knew the palette of the games, and planned out the lighting to the 3D previs we were creating. Each game has it’s own style, and it’s own sense of realism. It was important to us to maintain the art direction of the game, even when we brought it over into the real world. It should still feel like a game, even if it’s being lit by practical lights. We had to mold the game world to our live action location so that the two could be blended together in comp. Beams in the game world needed to line up to the architecture of the location. We took a little creative liberty with the game settings, but it was always with restraint and reverence towards what the developers were building.
PUTTING VR IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND.
Touch is such a vital sense. It brings a tactile awareness of our world around us. All our other senses are built to detect the world, and process it, but Touch is the only sense built to manipulate it. What the Touch controllers give to the VR sensation is unparalleled. It allows us to manipulate virtual objects in a way we’re used to, a way that feels natural. VR already feels natural, Touch furthers that progression of the technology.
It’s an exciting time. We’re eager to see where VR goes, holding our breath for every new advancement. It will be interesting to see how it is adopted and how the social buzz will drive its success. We’re believers.