Guided Travels in VR (virtual reality)

By: jschrempp. Updated: December 02, 2019.

I recently experienced the Oculus Quest virtual reality (VR) headset. The quality of the VR experience is superb, fully immersive. It is easy to use for a retired techie like myself, but will be challenging for someone who is not familiar with it  (there are so many older adults who didn't work in "the tech industry") and I think impossible for someone with mild congitive impairment. Yet the benefits I see are huge to allow someone to escape their physical limitations and experience the world at large once again. I want to describe a user experience and challenge the VR headset community to make this a reality.

My friend Bob lives in a retirement community - a CCRC. He's a smart guy, used to travel the world. He's now 85, uses a walker, and his short term memory is dim. I'm sure Bob could never be trained to use the Oculus Quest on his own, but I know he would love the VR experience. 

Imagine if the following story were true ...

Bob and I each own Oculus Quest headsets. I put on Bob's headset. I create an account for him, and then make him a "friend" of my account. I go one step further and I make my account a "Guide" for Bob. Then I put Bob's headset in "Guided" mode, and select my headset as his "Guide". I lock his headset in Guided mode and place it on the table.

I put on my own headset. I select Bob from my friends list and I select to "Guide" him. 

"OK Bob," I say. "Put on your headset, we're ready to go."

Bob is seated at the table with me. He puts on his headset and can see that he's in the "home" living room of the Oculus VR experience. In fact, in virtual space Bob is in the same place I am. His Oculus Quest renders the same world view that I have. Bob cannot "walk" or "travel" in VR. In fact, the hand controllers associated with Bob's device do not function. Becuase we are in Guide/Guided mode our headsets are automatically set for a Stationary Guardian in our current location. However, Bob can move his head around and see all the VR world that we are in - he just can't move the position. Bob and I are talking through the Oculus Quest chat function, our microphones are always on.

"Look to the left Bob. I'm going to choose our application. We're going to use Wander." I click to bring up wander and both our headsets go dark as the app gets loaded. Suddenly we are both standing in San Francisco, the location I was at when I last used Wander. 

"Jim, can we go to Sienna today?"

I bring up the navigation menu (Bob sees this in his headset as well) and set us up for Sienna, Italy.

"Oh wow, Jim. I haven't been here in years." Bob's friends in the room see him moving his head this way and that as he revels in the immersive experience. "Jim, let's go over to the fountain."

"Sure Bob," I say as I use my handset controls to move us both over to the famous fountain.

After 30 minutes of this Bob has had enough. He takes off his headset and says, "God, I so love to travel. Thanks for taking me there today."

Bob has not left his CCRC in the last three years. And yet now, every week, I take him somewhere in the world. Places he has been, and new places. Bob tells all his friends in the CCRC about this. They all want to "get out and see the world again." What a life changing expereience for someone in their later years!

And, do I really have to be sitting with Bob? Could I call him and say, "Bob, put on your headset and I'll put on mine." We could have the same experience I just described and yet be in different cities. I could do this with Bob while I'm traveling on business. Bob's life would be so much richer.

The Group Experience

Now imagine the same exact scenario described above but with a change. I'm sitting at a big round table in the CCRC with 10 seniors. Each has an Oculus Quest headset in front of them that has been locked in Guided mode with my headset as the Guide. "Ok everyone, put on your headsets." In a minute we are all connected and everyone is standing in my Oculus living room. We don't have avatars, we don't "see" each other. We are, in VR, all sitting in exactly the same spot - the spot that I am sitting in. "Ok everyone, let's go see the new NYTimes short VR movie about whales. Hang on." I manipulate the system and start the experience. We are all immersed in that great VR movie about swimming with whales. Everyone is looking in different directions as they all find different things of interest. And yet, we are all there together. The microphones are busy as everyone is talking about what they are seeing and ooohing and aaahhing. 

Why not now?

This can all be done today. The technology is there. The pairing ability is there. The need is there. Oculus, please step up and take these people from the confines of their surroundings and set them free again.




from khaleroo (member) at September 16, 2019

This is a pretty straight forward idea. Not too hard to code. I will think on it.