At the heart of the VR-Together project lies the objective to enable social VR experiences with strong feelings of immersion as well as co-presence. To achieve this strong social sense of sharing a space together, photorealistic real-time representations of users are used, rather than relying on abstract avatars as found in such offerings as Facebook Spaces or AltspaceVR. Using state-of-the-art technologies developed by consortium partners and off-the-shelf hardware such as Microsoft Kinect or Intel RealSense sensors, users are scanned in real-time and the captured representations are processed and streamed as point clouds or time varying meshes (TVM). These approaches to user representation, combined with HMD removal technology, allow users sharing the virtual space – while in geographically separate locations – to see each other in all three dimensions.
Early feedback from users of the Pilot 1 demonstrations regarding the ability to see themselves and others, has been positive. The question still remains however, whether or not accurate self-representation has a significant positive impact on your sense of immersion, co-presence and the overall quality of experience. Both when seeing yourself as well as when interacting with others sharing the same virtual environment with you.
To answer this question, VR-Together consortium partner Artanim will this summer run an experiment in which users will be placed in a virtual environment in which they are virtualized by a representation of themselves at varying levels of realism and likeness.
User representations will be created at 3 different levels of accuracy:
An abstract avatar-like representation which does not match the participant
A realistic representation of the participant
An in-between more abstract – perhaps cartoon-like – representation of the participant, which is still recognizable, but steers clear of such undesirable effects as the “Uncanny Valley”.
To evaluate self-representation, single users will be placed in a virtual environment in which, by means of a virtual mirror, they will be able to observe themselves. The question there is whether or not an increased likeness improves the overall VR experience. To evaluate the importance of avatar likeness in the representation of others, pairs of users who know each other (i.e. friends or family) will share a virtual environment together, again being represented at varying levels of likeness. The goal there is to understand the effects on such aspects as immersion, togetherness and quality of interaction.
The proposed experiment will help us better understand what scenarios benefit most from realistic and recognizable user representation in Virtual Reality experiences, and to what extent realism is desirable in social VR.
We are proud to announce the opening of the VR experience Geneva 1850: A Revolutionary Journey co-produced by Artanim and the Museums of Art and History of Geneva. The immersive installation will be open to public starting from April 12th at Maison Tavel, the oldest standing building in the city of Calvin.
Headset strapped to your head, movement sensors attached to your wrists and feet, you are now all geared up to dive into the Geneva 1850 experience. This VR installation immerses users into the Geneva of a time when the city was on the brink of modernity. In groups of four, impersonating period costume-clad avatars, users are given a chance to discover the city as it was in October 1846, just days before its people rose up in insurrection. Featuring a spectacular number of special effects, the experience is not only a visual, auditory and olfactory one. It also includes a physical and haptic dimension — users can feel themselves walking around the virtual city and pick up actual objects to interact with their environment, their fellow travellers and city dwellers.
Based on 3D data collected through the digitization of the Magnin model exhibited at Maison Tavel, this extraordinary experience is an invitation to travel back in time and witness the outbreak of Geneva’s “Fazy” revolution.
April 12th-July 14th, 2019 – Maison Tavel, Rue du Puits-Saint-Pierre 6, 1204 Geneva.
August 1st-September 29th, 2019 – Museum of Art and History, Rue Charles-Galland 2, 1206 Geneva.
Open from 11am to 6pm, closed on Monday.
Reserve your tickets for a journey through time at MAH-GENEVE.CH
Approximate duration: 45 min.
Dreamscape Immersive, the story-oriented VR company leveraging Artanim’s VR technology and whose backers include movie chain AMC Entertainment and several Hollywood heavyweights (MGM, Warner, 21st Century Fox, Steven Spielberg, Hans Zimmer), opens its first permanent location in the same upscale Los Angeles mall where it ran a pop-up storefront last February featuring its sci-fi-themed Alien Zoo experience.
The permanent storefront in the Westfield Century City mall will initially provide dedicated “theaters” and suit-up areas for three different experiences: Alien Zoo, the undersea adventure The Blu: Deep Rescue, and the Indiana Jones-style Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl. Tickets cost $20, get them here. The new location is part of a rapid expansion effort by the company, which plans to roll out stand-alone and in-theater venues (in partnership with AMC Theatre) outside of California.
Follow Caecilia Charbonnier and Sylvain Chagué, who are also the co-founders and co-CTOs of Dreamscape during the opening day at Westfield. Below, some pictures of the elegant Dreamscape store.
Do you feel in control of the body that you see? This is an important question in virtual reality (VR) as it highly impacts the user’s sensation of presence and embodiment of an avatar representation while immersed in a virtual environment. To better understand this aspect, we performed an experiment in the framework of the VR-Together project to assess the relative impact of different levels of body animation fidelity to presence.
In this experiment, the users are equipped with a motion capture suit and reflective markers to track their movements in real time with a Vicon optical motion capture system. They also wear Manus VR gloves for fingers tracking and an Oculus HMD. At each trial, the face (eye gaze and mouth), fingers and the avatar’s upper and lower bodies are manipulated with different degree of animation fidelity, such as no animation, procedural animation and motion capture. Each time, users have to execute a number of tasks (walk, grab an object, speak in front of a mirror) and to evaluate if they are in control of their body. Users start with the simplest setting and, according to the judged priority, improve features of the avatar animation until they are satisfied with the experience of control.
Using the order in which users improve the movement features, we can assert on the most valuable animation features to the users. With this experiment, we want to confront the relative importance of animation features with the costs of adoption (monetary and effort) to provide software and use guidelines for live 3D rigged character mesh animation based on affordable hardware. This outcome will be useful to better define what makes a compelling social VR experience.
Artanim collaborated with Entropy Studio on the shooting of the first pilot of the VR-Together project. After a short flight from Madrid to Geneva, the actors were 3D scanned with our photogrammetric scanner consisting of 96 cameras, to obtain the 3D surface of their body. Steve Galache (known for his work on The Vampire in the Hole, 2010; El cosmonauta, 2013; and Muertos comunes, 2004), Jonathan David Mellor (known for The Wine of Summer, 2013; Refugiados, 2014; and [Rec]², 2009) and Almudena Calvo were the main characters of this first experience. They were dressed the same way as in the shooting scene.
The shooting was split over two days. The first day was dedicated to shoot the actors in costumes on a complete chroma background with a stereo-camera. This will allow the creation of photoreal stereo-billboards that will be integrated in a full CG-environment. The second day of shooting was focused on full performance capture of the actors. Each equipped with 59 retro-reflective markers and an head-mounted iPhone X, the actors were able to perform the investigation plot (an interrogatory scene) with success. These data will later be used to animate the 3D models of the actors generated from the 3D scans. These full-CG models will be finally integrated in the same virtual environment.
This pilot project will thus offer two different rendering modalities for real actors (stereo-bilboard and CG characters). The impact of both techniques will be studied through user studies with an eye on social presence and immersion.