If you’ve had any interest at all in VR over the last few years you’ll have no doubt seen Oculus founder Palmer Lucky on the cover of time magazine. As cool as VR feels to experience, no one has so far managed to actually look cool while using a VR system, which is why it’s usually a better idea to do it in private.
At least the Vive, Oculus and other modern VR systems try to be as unobtrusive as possible. The same can not be said for the FaceDisplay, which was introduced to the world in May of 2017 and makes you wonder what humanity has come to.
Do we really care what we look like when wearing our VR headsets? I guess it depends on the time and place. In the case of the FaceDisplay the answer is probably that you would care if you’re being taped at a tradeshow or expo.
While the base of the demo system is indeed a normal Oculus Rift, what the creators of the FaceDisplay has done is to tape some touchscreens to the front of it. This very effectively turns you into something that would not look out of place in the 80s Lawnmower Man film or Max Headroom.
It’s madness with some method behind it though, since the screens allow people who are not currently in the VR world to get a glimpse into what you’re seeing. What’s more, they can interact with you in the VR world by touching the screens.
What happens when someone touches one of the three screens is variable. In the demo app was a sort of Fruit Ninja Clone. The people who aren’t wearing the screen beast can throw fruit at the player by touching the screen,
Obviously this demo is just a way for the guys from Ulm University to show the technical ability of the platform, but it’s not an experimental or deep implementation of its potential.
What’s the Point?
According to the team’s paper their goal with the FaceDisplay was to make people think about what mobile VR should mean in term of social experiences. Why should only people immersed in the VR world get to take part in it?
When you think about it, Sony have already done something along these lines with the Playstation VR. In some games one person can be in VR while others watch and possible interact using traditional means.
VR is mostly thought of as a solitary experience, but perhaps the people behind the FaceDisplay have a point. VR has a lot of potential as a social experience, as Facebook clearly thinks as well with the introduction of Spaces.
FaceDisplay will probably go no further in this form, but it’s necessary food for thought in the VR industry.