Prior to the mega events by Microsoft and Apple this past week, Google held their fall event on October 4, 2016 where they introduced a host of new devices including the Pixel smartphone, Google Wifi, 'Google Home' and 'Daydream', a simplistic VR headset. In 2014 Google introduced their cardboard smartphone VR adapter and their latest version of it remains simplistic. True, it's a new design available in three colored fabrics and a remote, but essentially it's the same device that's an empty shell that houses a smartphone, and specifically their new Pixel smartphone.
This week, a new Google patent surfaced at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that reveals their next generation virtual and/or augmented reality head mounted display system that's far more advanced than the simplistic 'Daydream' unit that's coming to market in November.
The patent filing revealed that the system will come with built-in headphones to immerse a user's gaming or VR experience. More controls will be provided to control the device's lenses and lighting conditions. More importantly, Google has created an all-new VR tracking system designed to allow a user with the headset on to physically move within the room that they're playing the content in to make their VR world experience seem more realistic. This aspect of the invention is the focus of the current invention and this report. This feature has to be done just right so that users avoid motion sickness when transitioning between a VR world and the real one.
It should be noted that some of this patent was very difficult to follow as there was a series of run-on sentences when describing the complex nature of the invention. I've tried to stay true to the patent's verbiage to keep the idea on track, but some paragraphs will be difficult to wrap your brain around easily.
Google's Patent Background
In an immersive experience, such as an experience generated by a Virtual Reality (VR) system or an Augmented Reality (AR) system, a relatively clear boundary may exist between the immersive experience generated by the VR/AR system, or the "virtual" world, and the environment outside of the virtual world, or the "real" world. Accuracy when translating a user's real world position into the virtual world may enhance the user's sense of presence in the virtual world.
A New VR and AR Transition System and Method
Google's patent application relates to a next generation virtual and augmented reality system.
More specifically, Google's patent application covers a method of operating an audio visual system that's configured to generate a virtual immersive experience that includes activating a tracking device and tracking a position of a user's electronic device in a real world space, detecting a transition condition, and performing a transition process to transition out of the virtual world generated by the user's electronic device in response to the transition condition.
In another aspect, the invention covers a method of operating an audio visual system configured to generate a virtual immersive experience that may include activating a tracking device having a defined tracking area and tracking the movement of a user electronic device in a real world space. It then translates the real world movement of the user's electronic device in the real world space into virtual movements in a virtual world generated by the user's electronic device, determining when a current position of the user electronic device is within a threshold of a system boundary, and performing a transition process when the current position of the user electronic device is within the threshold of the system boundary.
Google further notes that "The processor may translate the detected real world movement of the user electronic device into virtual movement in the virtual world generated by the user electronic device, may automatically perform a transition out of the virtual world generated by the user electronic device when a distance between the tracking device in the tracking area and a boundary of the tracking area is less than or equal to a preset threshold distance such that the transition out of the virtual world is complete at or before the user electronic device reaches the boundary, and may perform a transition back into the virtual world by the user electronic device when the tracking device detects that the user electronic device has crossed the boundary and re-entered the tracking area.
Google notes that a future generation HMD #100 (or Daydreamer VR Headset) will also include a sensing system #160 (noted in FIG. 1A) and a control system #170 to facilitate manual user control and automated control of the HMD (Head Mounted Display).
In some embodiments, this external indicator may include, for example, a change in a physical appearance in some portion of the HMD that may be visible by those on the outside.
In a VR system, a user may physically move in a prescribed physical space in which the system is received and operated. The system may track the user's movement in the physical space, or the "real" world, and cause the virtual world to "move" in coordination with the user's movement in the real world. This positional tracking may thus track a position of a user in the real world and translate that movement into the virtual world to generate a heightened sense of presence in the virtual world.
In some embodiments, this type of motion tracking in the space may be accomplished by, for example, a tracking device such as a camera positioned in the space, and in communication with a base station generating the virtual world in which the user is immersed. This base station may be, for example, a standalone computing device, or a computing device included in the HMD worn by the user.
According to Google, as the motion tracking system is out of range or lost while the user "A" continues to move in the real world space, the virtual world will remain still, or appear to be stuck.
The HMD system may issue a warning or indicator, and/or may automatically initiate a fluid or graceful transition out of the virtual world when the user is at position 4 noted above in FIG. 3B, even though the user is still in the tracking area 320 at position 4, so that by the time the user reaches position 5, the transition out of the virtual world will be complete, and the user may avoid disorientation and/or discomfort due to the loss of tracking.
The system is also designed to assist a user avoid obstacles in the room while they're moving within a room to avoid a hazard to the user. A gradual transition out of the virtual world may be performed as the user approaches an obstacle.
Google notes that there's a built-in 3 foot range of the boundary of the tracking area #320. The system may initiate a gradual transition out of the virtual world at stage 4 as illustrated in FIG. 3B below. At position 4, the transition out of the virtual world may be at least partially complete, with the transition process fully complete by the time the user reaches position 5 and is fully outside of the tracking area. .
In some embodiments, a change in physical appearance of the HMD visible to the external party may include, for example, a change in appearance of an externally visible side of the display #140, as shown in FIG. 6B above. For example, the external display visible by anyone in the room could be transitioned to illustrate the eyes of the user wearing the HMD, demonstrating that the user is transitioning out a virtual world.
The image displayed to the external party may alternatively include, for example, a simple change in color of the external surface of the device, a message in the form of characters and/or icons, an image of a set of eyes to simulate the user returning a gaze to the external party, and the like.
In some embodiments, the transition in response to the request from the external party to gain the attention of the user may also include the display of pass through images to the user
In some embodiments, the front external display may be a transparent display. In this case, in response to a request from an external party to gain the attention of the user, the control system may initiate the transition out of the virtual world, and cause the display to transition to the transparent state as the virtual world images fade or are otherwise no longer displayed, as shown in FIG. 8 above.
In the transparent state, the user may view the external party directly through the display and the user's eyes may be visible to the external party through the transparent display, indicating that the user is disengaged from the virtual world and available for interaction in the real world.
Google further notes that a Virtual Reality (VR) system and/or an Augmented Reality (AR) system differs in the physical boundaries of the real world, such as, for example, the confines of a room and/or objects in the room, and boundaries of the virtual world may cause discrepancies or disruptions in the immersive experience and disorientation as the user approaches and/or encounters one of these virtual boundaries and/or one of these physical boundaries.
A smooth, or graceful, transition, for example, from the virtual world to the real world as the user encounters a boundary of the virtual world, may avoid the disorientation and motion sickness which may occur as a user continues to move in the real world, while motion appears to have stopped upon reaching the boundary of the virtual world. That's why Google has created the transitional phases as noted in FIG. 3B above.
Google's patent FIG. 2 is an overview of a Future Daydream VR Headset System.
Google filed their patent application for this invention back in April 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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