What are input and output in virtual reality?

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With all the senses getting involved in virtual reality, it is important to take a moment to revaluate our fundamental understanding of human-computer interactions in virtual reality.

The field of human-computer interaction (HCI), the study of how people interact with computers, has existed for over 3 decades. Through this field, developers have created more intuitive and helpful means to use technology. The traditional view of human-computer interaction starts with a person and their input devices (mouse, keyboard). Information from these devices is sent to a computer which interprets this input and an output is provided through the monitor and speakers.

HCI in VR is viewed similarly. People use controllers to input information and an output comes through the head-mounted display and the headphones. However, this model overlooks an important new form of input exclusive to VR: where the person is looking and where they are in space (real or virtual). With VR, we are no longer interacting with a stationary tool. Everything about how we interact with our environment becomes part of the input. Even things like our eyes becomes part of the input. For example, with eye tracking coming soon with the Fove, intangibles such as attention can become a type of input (You can track attentional effort using pupil size!). Imagine a world where your computer knows if something requires a lot of your attention and can compensate for it. You’re having a tough time reading an article? Don’t worry, your computer will adjust font size and colour for you. This is the future we’ll soon be living in.

Evolution of Human Computer Interaction

The main difference between VR and computers is that VR is like real life: the information can be all around you, it is not only on a screen. Likewise, sound is no longer tied to the location of your speakers, it can (and should) come from all around you. That information is no longer tied to a screen is VR’s true revolution. Our conception of what is possible must adapt to this new paradigm if we are to make the most of this ground-breaking technology. In virtual reality, interaction with the computer no longer comes from how we use a mouse and keyboard, but rather how we interact with the world around us!

In this new virtual reality, our brain is the computer! This is the secret to unlocking VR’S most powerful processor and we need to have this paradigm shift in order to harness the full potential of virtual reality. Everything about VR hinges on the brain’s ability to create a new reality from specifically designed inputs. In this new paradigm, the inputs are our senses and the output is our perception. Vision and sound are both already in VR and soon, Tactai will bring touch.

What a time to be alive.


Additional Info

  • About the author: Simon leads user experience development at Tactai. He has a PhD in multisensory perception and loves sharing his passion for both science and the potential of VR to anyone who will listen. Drop him a line on Twitter at @rhymeswithsimon
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