Putting a VR headset on immediately shows the need for a new generation of controllers as the old ones (the gamepad in particular) appear inadequate. It raises the question of what characteristics those new VR controllers should have.
At 3dRudder we focus on movement and decided early on the feet were making the most sense to move in VR. Our iterative process to design the 3dRudder resulted in a controller with the 3 following fundamental characteristics.
Immediate and natural
When users try the 3dRudder we do not need to explain anything to them. As opposed to a gamepad where you need to be taught the function of each and every button users just need to rest their feet on the 3dRudder to start using it. Our instruction are simply “Tilt the device forward” and their brain immediately makes the connection between what their feet do and what they see in the VR headset. We use an existing standard neurological scheme (feet/brain) and the impact is an amazingly short learning curve of a few seconds. While at first they may have been skeptical about using their feet they smile after 3 seconds of using the 3dRudder. It’s immediate. It feels natural.
Can be used for hours without fatigue
Because we are dedicated to movement we decided early on the 3dRudder would be used while seated. You’ll want to play or work in VR for hours. Although you may find amusing to run in VR standing and buckled up on a treadmill you’ll soon discover not everyone is a trained Navy Seals! Most games will be played seated.
We also designed the 3dRudder without any mechanical parts so that anyone, whatever their age and sex could use it. Whether you’re a petite female or a large man we use your body’s natural balance and your legs force feedback to bring back the 3dRudder to its resting position.
We also decided you would need very low amplitude in the movements we expect you to do with your feet. We use micro-movements even if on screen you may be running, jumping… You only need to tilt slightly your feet to move in the direction you choose to. No big movements, but rather small even imperceptible touches. When trying 3dRudder most users are surprised by this and find it quite stunning.
Forgettable and addictive
We had to make using 3dRudder so compelling that you would forget your feet were resting on it the very second they were. This is achieved by the specific form factor of the device and again the absence of any mechanical parts. The 3dRudder doesn’t constrain you at all. You just rest your feet on it like you would on a footrest at the office, at a bar, in an airplane or a train. This makes using the 3dRudder a rather addictive experience because it’s actually comfortable and relaxing.
We strongly believe hand-based controllers should offer those very same characteristics.
In VR the gamepad is not adequate because it tightens your hands together where they should not be. You want both your hands free to touch, grab, push… independently from one another, and you want to see both on screen as in in real life. Thus the need for a new generation of controllers.
You do not want a device as complex as the gamepad. You want a device that will make immediate sense to you.
You do not want a device that offers a Wii-like experience because it’s tiresome. It may be fun in some circumstances but it will be painful most of the time. You want a device that can mix very small and ample movement by the fingers and the hands.
You do not want a device that is heavy. You want a device that you forget you are even holding/wearing and that requires little or no physical energy to use.
We see so far two types of hand-based devices : “buttons-based” like the Oculus Touch and “gloves-based” like Leapmotion (the gloves are virtual) or GloveOne (the gloves are physical). The later type has only been explored by start-ups while the big player are going for buttons.
Who do you think will ultimately be the prominent type of hand-based controllers?