We were fortunate enough to sit down with Antony Vitillo, PR and proud R&D Chief Developer of ImmotionAR Division. They are an Italian virtual reality startup and they recently released Hit Motion, the first cross platform full body virtual reality game. Let’s get to it:
1. Tell us a little about yourself, what is your background and what brought you to Virtual Reality (VR)?
We are Gianni Rosa Gallina and Antony Vitillo, two computer science engineer that studied at the Politechnic of Turin, Italy.
Gianni has worked lots of years on embedded IoT systems, then in 2014 he asked his company Beps Engineering (http://www.bepseng.it/en/) to start a new branch dedicated to new emerging technologies: AR and VR. So he called me and we started experimenting together: this way Immotionar has born. The passion for technological innovation is what made us immediately interested in these technologies: they’re surely the future for the mankind, this is the new paradigm of interaction with technology.
We started experimenting with AR devices like Google Glasses, but they were too rough and unusable, so we switched to VR (but you can still see the “ar” at the end of our name 😉 ), tried Oculus DK2 and saw that they were something usable.
We saw that VR was great, but at that time there was absolutely no natural interaction, no way to walk without nausea (only arrow keys on the keyboard) and no way to see your body in VR. We had a kinect on our desk and an idea popped in our minds: why can’t we mix both technologies, thanks to Kinect we can have all our body in VR, use all the body to interact with the virtual world and walk-in-place to walk nausea-free in the virtual world. And this is what we did.
The product that has come out from those thoughts is ImmotionRoom, a complete suite from the developer to the user for full body virtual reality experiences, for all headsets and all sensors (at the moment the only supported ones are Kinect v1 and v2). More info here: http://www.immotionar.com/en/services/immotionroom-your-full-body-in-virtual-reality/
Hit Motion is the first game completely supporting this system and it is been developed in collaboration with indies Massimiliano Ariani (game designer) and Victor Pukhov (3D artist). So it is the first game enhancing completely the power of full body in virtual reality, for all platforms (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Razer HDK, Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard).
2. How would you explain what Hit Motion is to someone who has never heard of VR?
The great thing is that there is nothing to explain to people not knowing VR: since you use full body in a complete natural way, there is no controller scheme to explain!
Hit Motion is a game where you put on a virtual reality headset and then you magically teleport inside a ring in the outer space and you have to destroy with punches and kicks all stuff that come near to you. To people that come here to test it, I just say “this is a virtual reality headset, put this on and you will find yourself inside a ring. Just move inside it and destroy everything that comes near to you!”
3. What has been your single greatest challenge?
About ImmotionRoom, the greatest challenge has been creating this super complex system (works with untethered headsets; works with an array of multiple kinects;) and making it almost user friendly for our users.
About HitMotion has been creating a demo that would make people understand why having full body in virtual reality is important. People nowadays say that with Vive or Rift, you already have hands and so full body is useless.
4. Tell us how you addressed it, and what you learned as a result.
Thanks to our game designer Massimiliano Ariani we found the right gameplay prototyping lots of different game concepts. We wanted something that was very easy to understand and was able to convey the concept very quickly, so an easy mechanic like “see an object, destroy it” proved to be the best one.
We learnt that when you’re pushing the limits of technology at the farthest limit possible, there’s no easy answer: you have to prototype a lot, experiment and fail really a lot. Hit Motion is the result of at least 3 completely failed prototype games.
5. What is the most surprising thing you have learned observing people interacting with VR? Lessons learned?
People get completely absorbed by VR, so they don’t care about anything else… so you must be very careful in making the game area the safest possible. In an exhibition a guy was completely committed in kicking a rugby ball that he gave a super-kick to one of our keyboards!
In this sense, the cable of tethered headset is a complete nuisance for everyone. We welcome a lot all this new interest in standalone headsets.
6. How have these lessons impacted Hit Motion’s evolution?
The game auto-fits the location and dimension of the ring so that the player is completely safe to move inside it.
7. What app/tool/program do you use every day that you would not want to be without?
Unity.It may be buggy, may not be supercool like CryEngine, but it makes you develop a game really easy and fast. And its community is great. All our games are made in Unity (even if we plan to support UE4 in the future).
8. What do you see as the future of VR and AR?
I see a future where AR and VR somehow merge in a unique headset. A future completely untethered. A future where the user has the full body in virtual reality, because without full body, VR isn’t true VR.
When people try our system first and then they try the Vive alone, they say that Vive is really cool, but seems like an old technology: since you can’t see yourself, you can’t feel really there, there is not true presence. That’s why I’m sure that full body virtual reality will be the future.
9. How would you define success for Hit Motion/Immotionar? What is the ultimate goal?
The ultimate goal for Immotionar is support all available headsets and sensors (e.g. we want to add VicoVR support) inside ImmotionRoom and then enhance our solution so that it can be a standard de facto for developing and living full body virtual reality experiences. We want that all users can start living full body VR at an affordable price. We want all developers to create easily full body VR experiences. And we want the highest possible number of people to have fun with Hit Motion.
10. Am I missing anything? Is there something you wish people would ask you?
ImmotionRoom SDK/runtime is already downloadable on Immotionar website (www.www.immotionar.com)…and with it you can start playing Hit Motion… or, if you are a developer, create an experience cooler than it! Our software is free unless you start earning by using it, so if anyone has a Kinect (or more.. the more the Kinects, the more the game is entertaining to be played) and a VR headset can give it a try and see how cool is full body VR. Obviously we hope people will pay for some extra features or the commercial options to support our hard work! 😉
It has gained interest by companies in entertainment, marketing (for the WOW effect it creates), fitness, rehabilitation, psychology and art… having all body enables lots of different applications.