Taking VR Subaquatic

One of the biggest limitations in the ‘reality’ part of virtual reality is the disconnect between the things that we are seeing, and what our bodies feel. When we pick something up, we don’t feel what we are picking up, we feel the controller. Movement is regularly done with a joy stick rather than our legs, and this disjointing experience removes the viewer from really feeling like they are a part of the virtual world. There are options looking to solve this, but none are perfect. There is one fascinating alternative that creates a synchronized experience for mind and body .

Tech company Avegant works with VR and mixed reality, designing the closest thing to a hologram that I’ve yet to see with their mixed reality Light Field projections. They have also created several virtual experiences designed for use while submerged underwater. The combination of a waterproof headset and a completely submerged user is a potent duo. It creates a new type of immersion where the viewers experience and the virtual world are completely simpatico.

Avegant prepared two experiences for their aquatic experiment. The first placed viewers in a coral reef. With the headset on and in the water, the viewer wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between swimming in the ocean above a coral reef and the reality of the swimming pool (as long as the user doesn’t bump their head against the edge of the pool). What’s amazing is that with only the waterproofed headset, Avegant is able to create a completely immersive experience. There is no haptic devices or treadmills required. This is an easily replicable experience that can serve as excellent example for the future of immersive VR.

The second experience that Avegant had prepared was a spacewalk, where the user was free floating in the cosmos. I think this is where the application of VR really shines. It is a creative way to give users the ability to experience something impossible. The user feels weightless floating in the pool and the visuals of the virtual environment support the imagery, working together to realistically create the unique feeling of being in space.

Compare this experience to the VR program Home by BBC Media Applications Technologies Limited. In Home, the viewer takes on the role of an astronaut doing repairs on the International Space Station. But the user’s physical experience is still standing on solid ground. While Home is still an extraordinary use of VR, the physical experience of the user is not the same as their virtual experience.

The future of virtual reality is creating a cohesive experience for the viewer, where both mind and body are taken into a digital space. Subaquatic VR is a modern example of what VR is heading towards. One thing I would like to see is an interactive experience that takes advantage of its physical immersion.

Learn more about Avagant here at their website: