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Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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A short video on how to experiment with interactivity in VR

interactive mechanics in vr
A short video on how to experiment with interactivity in VR

How do we engage with things in VR? Sometimes we throw them; sometimes we poke them. Regardless of what we do, the most important quality is that everything in a virtual reality space must be dynamic. That means when we throw things, they can hit other items, and they go the distance according to our strength. When we poke something, it teeters. Maybe it even falls over. It’s important that when we interact with items in a virtual space that they interact with us as well—that’s what makes VR immersive. Otherwise, you might as well just be watching a bland 360-degree video.

In a recent thesis project from Köln International School of Design in Germany, two researchers recently helmed the project, “A Study In Interactive Mechanics for Virtual Reality.” The joint thesis project from digital designer Eugene Krivoruchko and 3D artist Ilja Burzev was initially shown at the KISDparcours exhibition in mid-July. The video project showcases the many abstract ways that players interact with things in VR—all in its low-poly glory of course.

Interactivity is what makes VR immersive

The examples crafted by Krivoruchko and Burzev exhibit a multitude of dynamic interactive experiences in VR, from environment exploration through telekinetic control (such as pushing a glowing block through a dark space to light what we cannot see) to physics-based interactions (like pushing the letters of a word around with your hands). VR should be just about as interactive as our day-to-day lives to feel lifelike: hence why Krivoruchko and Burzev embarked on this project in the first place.

An example of employing precise positioning of a hand in 3D, using a bonsai tree as a canvas.
An example of employing precise positioning of a hand in 3D, using a bonsai tree as a canvas.

“Our focus on interaction comes from the belief that anything that exists in the dynamic environment must obtain a certain degree of dynamic properties,” they wrote in the description for the project. “Instead of creating abstract-looking spaces, we aimed to explore abstract behaviors.” Abstract behaviors, like peeking through a virtual window that shows your actual reality beyond the headset, and reaching through it to see your actual hand. The project in its entirety was orchestrated using Leap Motion optical hand tracking, in lieu of traditional gamepads. While non-haptic feedback was a drawback for the demonstrations, controllers would make the experiments feel and look tethered and disjointed—creating a lesser experience overall. So while the experiments aren’t perfect, they’re necessary in paving the way to a reality where barehanded controls may one day be possible. Or at least with gloves or something.

You can read more about the interactive mechanics in VR here, and watch some neat gifs while you’re at it.

Versions is brought to you by Nod Labs,
Precision wireless controllers for your virtual, augmented and actual reality.
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