Magic and Chekhov’s gun to enhance the realness of VR

VRST 2018 International Symposium


From November 28 to December 1, the VRST 2018 International Symposium was held at the International Conference Center at Waseda University. This symposium on virtual reality software and technology was organized by the Association for Computing Machinery, and co-organized by Waseda’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and ICT and Robotics Unit.

In the opening ceremony on November 28, Yukiharu Tamiya of Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc., who is responsible for directing and overseeing the VR entertainment facility known as the VR Zone, and creative director and game designer Hirofumi Motoyama of Bandai Namco Studios Inc. explained the development of VR content, and introduced content available at the VR Zone. One of the contents was “The Extreme Courage Test Machine: The Big Fear of Heights Experience,” in which the player must save a kitten at the edge of a plank 200m off the ground.

Yuhiharu Tamiya (bottom right) on the VR content “The Extreme Courage Test Machine: The Big Fear of Heights Experience”

Tamiya also shared how to cast magic in order for people to believe that the VR content is real.

“It is necessary to get people to believe that the VR content is real from inside their minds because we still think of VR as an optical illusion, which is why we purposefully incorporate a scene where the body moves unintentionally at the very beginning of the content. Emotions follow afterwards this way, and from that point on, everything starts to feel real. When your body believes it, your mind does as well.”

Lastly, Tamiya said that he would like to create a fun, laidback content that lets people to enjoy an experience, such as relaxing on an island somewhere in the south, and that due to the development in technology, more can be done with VR, and a world abundant in VR content awaits in the future.

In the following three days after the opening ceremony, Nick Whiting, technical director at Epic Games and studio head at Epic Games Seattle; Masatoshi Ishikawa, dean and professor of the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo; and Hao Li, CEO/co-founder of Pinscreen and assistant professor of Computer Science at the University of Southern California gave presentations as keynote speakers.

In “Discovering VR’S Grammar: The Interplay of the Engineering and the Creative Processes,” Whiting explained the mental model for how decisions are made on his company’s products in VR, how the team structure works, and how they evolved over the years. He shared case studies from his company’s products such as “Bullet Train” and “Robo Recall,” such as delaying assistive correction for firing rockets to make the players feel as if they improving, as well as exaggerating otherness of robots to downplay the violence.

Whiting explains how exaggerating otherness of robots could downplay the violence in the game

At the end of the presentation, Whiting said that the most important thing to be successful in VR applications is to ‘focus on exploiting what is unique to the meaning of VR.’

“The other part though,” he continued, “is that the burden of realism is much higher in VR because we are still very much animals that are grounded in our sense of reality. There’s a saying in literature that was coined by Anton Chekhov called Chekhov’s gun, where he says, ‘If you put a gun in a book in the first act, it has to go off by the third act.’ The same goes for VR. If you put something that the player expects to be able to interact with in a realistic way, the burden is on the application creator to make that behave in a realistic or interactive way. Otherwise, the player is just going to be disappointed.”

In addition to the selected demonstrations and presentations on the latest VR-related technology, 14 companies, including Square Enix Co., Ltd. and Microsoft Corporation, exhibited their works at their booths at the symposium. Approximately two-thirds out of the 378 participants were from overseas, making this event which explored the deep world of VR, ranging from its basic technology to applications in entertainment, a very international one.

 

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