Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Interaction design and virtual reality

It is obvious to anyone who follows news within the tech world but also in regular news that VR (virtual reality) is the 'big thing'. Everywhere is VR in different versions discussed with amazement and excitement. It seems as if every morning news show has to have a segment on some new VR application or technology. The same is going on in more professional contexts. For instance, at the yearly CHI (ACM Computer Human Interaction) conference last week, there were a large number of session related to VR in all forms.

This excitement is easy to share. What is possible to do today with fairly accessible devices is quite amazing, especially in relation what was possible to do a couple of decades ago. It is not only VR, it is also augmented reality, mixed reality, etc. The possibilities seem endless.

So, what does this mean for HCI and for interaction design. Well, for now it seems as if all effort is aimed at making these technologies perform good enough. In parallel with these more practical efforts, there is a flood of visions on how this technology  will transform aspects of our professional and everyday lives.

The interaction aspects of this technology is so far less developed. It is for instance easy to anticipate extraordinary difficult design challenges when we have well functioning mixed reality systems. How can we design systems that are useful when combining the 'real' with virtuality, how can people work together in environments where they do not experience the same 'reality'? As long as these technologies are used in labs or controlled environments this may not be obvious problems, but when the technology moves out in the 'wild', new issues and challenges will emerge.

I am convinced that this new technology will lead to drastic changes in what we can do with digital technology. However, I am also convinced that the potential 'success' of this technology is not only a dependent on if it is possible to make it function well but even more a question of design. I am sure that the design of applications will be strongly influenced by the existing 'thought styles' that dominates the field today. But we will soon see new interaction paradigms emerge that deviates radically from what we today see as interaction or interactivity.


Aman said...

Your post reminded me of a recent demo session I attended of the latest VR and AR headsets. While trying these devices and canned applications I kept wondering about the limited input capabilities and over reliance on a peripheral device, similar to joystick. I will like to hear your thoughts on potential input techniques that seem appropriate.
- Aman

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