A real ball in virtual reality

You wouldn’t think that you could catch a ball while wearing a virtual reality headset, but Disney Research has made it possible!

When you first watch the video recently published by Disney Research, you might wonder what the point is. All we see is a man catching a ball while wearing a virtual reality headset. However, this experiment shows the interactions that are now possible between real, physical moving objects and someone who is immersed in a virtual reality environment.

During this experiment, the motion of ball being passed between users was analyzed. Using Unscented Kalman Filtering, researchers were able to predict the trajectory of the ball as it approached the user who was ready and waiting to catch it. Thanks to various trajectory calculations, the user knows in advance which path the ball is going to take and can more easily move toward the right area to catch it. However, catching a ball is harder than you might think. It requires good psychomotor coordination, with the brain, legs, hand and even the position of the body all working together. Predictive visualization improves the user’s perception but may also influence the user’s strategy in catching the ball.

This type of system improves their chances of winning ball games, virtual or otherwise, and we can assume it will also work for throwing the ball. Imagine the volleyball, basketball, handball or even tennis court of the future, where all the players wear a VR headset. The winner may not be the most talented player, but the one whose team has the best IT developer!

Nathalie Bloch-Sitbon

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