Size Matters: Scaling in VR

Pros and Cons of scaling in VR

One of Virtual Reality most appreciated features is the access to new impossible worlds that we can only dream about.
However, there is much more to it!

Virtual Reality allows the user to “live” in the natural world under different perspectives.  With just a few clicks, tools like Unity allow the world to be scaled up or down from nanometers to parser sizes.
Testing resizing on a normal office room provides some insights on the potentialities and the issues. The room was increased in size by a factor of 10, together with all the objects inside it.

The first immediate effect is a complete lack of light. Because the model does not have direct light, but instead is lighten up by two lights on the fan with limited range, the size increase moved all the walls too far from the lights to reach them and thus illuminate the space.
Another issue is related to timing. Scaling obviously augment distances between objects. Consequently, each movement takes 10 times as long as before. The overall effect then is a sort of slow-motion, with everything moving much slower than expected.
As far as graphic textures are concerned, the final quality is still good.
The image shows part of a painting from Kandinsky which is hung on the wall of the office.
The quality can be considered satisfying and is in fact biased by the limited resolution of the screen from which it was captured.
In fact, textures quality depends mostly on the quality of the original image, but as a rule a size increase would reduce the perceived quality whilst a reduction would better it.

Capture 4
Capture

Technically speaking then, the effects are limited. Moreover, most of the listed issues comes from fact that the testing was conducted by enlarging the room and not by reducing the user’s size (distance to hands, walking pace, etc..).
The feeling, however, is quite different.
Being overlooked by a cup or a mouse makes you feel small and somehow week, but also encourages a curiosity instinct to explore the “always the same room” under a distinct perspective.

This sort of psychological effort can be exploited in a variety of applications, in particular it really makes the differenct fundamental in teaching.
The scientific field may also gain a lot from these kinds of experiments.
From protein structure to planetary systems, VR provides a unique tool to better understand how our universe works.

From medicine to history then, VR once more proves to be a great tool for many fields to enhance the user experience and provide more effective access to information.

Sept. 22th, 2017

Chicago

Note: This article was written as an homework for course CS 491 – Virtual and Augmented Reality, held by professor Johnson at UIC.