HP Takes Us One Step Closer to a Virtual Tomorrow – VR
Virtual reality (VR) held the promise of merely putting on a headset, along with everyone else, and meeting in a virtual world where you could manipulate, in simulation. Now, HP has taken a considerable step to usher us to a future where we really can mostly exist in a virtual, rather than real, office environment; and not only get more done, but be safer as well.
For those of us who are fans of the book and movie “Ready Player One,” there’s this promise of being able to put on some hardware and gain an entirely new identity in a photorealistic virtual world. I’m also a fan of LitRPG, where the stories revolve around people living in these future virtual worlds.
We’re moving at an impressive rate to create virtual worlds, but we have missed several critical elements. Those include instrumenting the mouth and eyes so that the lips on virtual avatars move with the words realistically and expressions are more realistic. I don’t care how photorealistic the avatar is, if its face never moves it looks creepy.
We also need a virtual environment to work in, move from controllers to haptic gloves, and eventually to haptic suites or emersion pods. The first step is to get the headset right to capture the needed information and translate it into the virtual environment.
HP Omnicept VR
Last week HP announced HP Omnicept VR, which is a solution that begins with a special headset. Omnicept VR provides the critical elements needed to create a virtual meeting room and lays a foundation for creating a virtual world where many of us could eventually spend much of our time.
HP has modified its latest second-generation reverb headset, the G2, to add some critical features starting with the headset.
The Reverb G2 VR starts with high-resolution screens (2160 x 2160) for each eye, a Valve-designed speaker for audio clarity, four camera built-in tracking with 90 percent coverage to instrument your arms through a full range of motion, and one of the most comfortable head straps in the segment (so you can use it for hours).
The Omnicept version adds eye-tracking, which lowers system load through foveated rendering. It could translate event expressions and heart rate to report on the user’s health and stress levels; and the critical face camera instruments of mouth and facial expressions.
Making this into a solution is a flexibly licensed SDK and a growing number of partners. One of those partners is Nvidia and its extraordinary Omniverse Machinima effort that allows a user to create a virtual environment using game resources and animate avatars with tools like this Omnicept effort.
These same tools could create virtual meeting spaces where users with headsets like the HP Reverb Omnicept could identify users with biometric markers and log them into the virtual meeting room. For variety, that meeting room could be in the past, space, or an imaginary world. The avatars controlled by the users could be made to be period correct or be built from an enhanced image of the user.
In that room, you could shake virtual hands, have side conversations (managed by the room’s AI), transform any virtual wall into a presentation space and potentially record the event in virtual space so future viewers could experience the meeting in VR.
HP’s Omnicept VR, coupled with Nvidia’s Omniverse and other similar tools, will get us a lot closer to our eventual virtual office of the future.
As noted above, we still need to get rid of the game controllers and go to some glove that will let us use our hands more naturally, and then we need to be able to create these virtual worlds.
We are getting ever closer to a time when our travel, work, or anyplace maybe even including vacations (remember Total Recall) will become virtual.
Given the pandemic, which will keep many practices we now think of as transitory to be permanent, we need this capability as soon as we can get it. HP just took us one giant step closer. There is still a ton of work to do, but with Omnicept, we now can start to see the light at the end of what has been a very long tunnel.