With several high-profile virtual-reality headsets slated for consumer release in the coming months, I’m getting more and more excited about the possibilities for escaping into virtual worlds. But safety questions remain largely unanswered: if you’re thrashing about in your living room, playing a shoot-‘em-up game or making a virtual cup of coffee, how do you make sure you don’t smack into people or objects that are also in the room?
HTC, which is planning to release its Vive virtual-reality headset to consumers in April, is showing off a fairly simple, clever solution at CES in Las Vegas this week: a front-facing camera, included in the new version of its developer headset, the Vive Pre, that, at times, will show you high-contrast, blue-and-black-hued, cartoon-like outlines of people and objects in your field of view.
You can turn on this blue view of the real world on with a double tap of a button on one of the Vive Pre’s two hand-held wand-like controllers–it’ll take the place of what you see in VR. You’ll also see it show up if you get too close to the edge of your predefined VR play space (the company uses a headset and controller tracking system that can cover a 15- by 15-foot room, though chances are you’d play in a smaller area if you’re at home).
This is in addition to an existing safety feature HTC already has on the Vive that shows you a translucent blue grid whenever you move toward the perimeter of your playing space; that can be helpful, but it’s not indicative of what (or who) is really in front of you.
The visual aids are hardly groundbreaking, but they address an important issue that is still very much up in the air for consumer virtual reality. Nobody wants to get hurt playing with virtual reality, and getting a sense of your surroundings might make some people more comfortable with trying it out in the first place. An HTC spokesman told me both are planned for inclusion in the consumer version of the headset. So is the ability to see when something–your dog, for instance–comes into your playing space.
The Vive Pre is meant for developers and will be available to them this month, but when I tried it out today, I thought its size, heft, and suggested that it’s probably pretty similar to the as-yet-unpriced Vive to be released in the coming months.
A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?
Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.
A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate
Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.
10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023
These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway
Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.