Talk Description to Me

Episode 117 - Virtual Reality Part 3

August 13, 2022 Christine Malec and JJ Hunt Season 4 Episode 117
Talk Description to Me
Episode 117 - Virtual Reality Part 3
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Back in May, Christine and JJ began examining and describing the world of virtual reality. Today the intrepid pair wraps up the three-part series, exploring surreal spaces and fantastical experiences, including a trippy meditation realm, and a journey to Jurassic World. Then JJ's  in-house tech expert Owen joins the conversation to provide a teenage take on VR. 



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JJ Hunt:

Talk description to me with Christine Malec and JJ Hunt.

Christine Malec:

Hi, I'm Christine Malec.

JJ Hunt:

And I'm JJ Hunt. This is talk description to me, where the visuals of current events and the world around us get hashed out in description rich conversations.

Christine Malec:

If you're a regular listener to the podcast, you will likely have heard a couple of previous episodes we did on virtual reality. JJ's eldest, bought an Oculus, which is a virtual reality headset, totally visual experience, kind of a closed book if you're blind or visually impaired. And in the past, we've played some of the demo that JJ did we, we visited the space station that was a highlight for me, we looked at some natural landscapes and some climbing. Today we're going to explore some synthetic landscapes and some artificial places that the Oculus has devised for people's amusement. And as a bonus, after the demo, we're gonna have a little conversation with Owen, who is JJ is eldest and the owner of the Oculus because as a 16 year old Owen has a different perspective, from the perspective of middle aged people like us, so Strap yourselves down and get ready for some virtual reality. Some of the things you can do with the Oculus are not really virtual reality, they're really created or designed, right? So can we walk through one of those environments that are deliberately created to be not quite not real?

JJ Hunt:

Okay, so I'm inside liminal. And this the kind of home screen for this experience is like standing in a massive circular pond. And all around the edges of the circle are these. They look like glowing Misty doorways in different colors. Like spanning the colors of the rainbow. If I walk in a circle, they start from whites and yellows and then all the way around me, they go into greens and purples and whites and then reds and blues. And this pool of water and being surrounded by all these doorways, these glowing doorways all of this is set against the like the starry night sky. So I feel like I'm standing in this manmade pool in floating in space, and then dropping down in front of me are are the experiences calm energy, all and more content? So what do we want to try calm, energy, or awe Chris?

Christine Malec:

I'm in favor of Awe

JJ Hunt:

Awe. Let's see what all gets me to. So I clicked on, we go into a black space. Now I've got a similar kind of environment and it looks like there's like dozens of slots for experiences. We are just downloaded the free version of this. So we only have a few boundless grid luminescence or dissent. Any of those sound good to you? luminescence team luminescence it is okay, a few lights. I'm in a totally black space except in front of me is like in the distance one little glowing light with some stars twinkling off of it. Okay, so now the world is starting to unfold around me I'm on a rock I'm on a rock it looks like a ring of what rocks or maybe a figure eight of rocks and floating around me in in, in what looks like space are other rocks of different colors, greens and blues and reds. It's like I'm inside a mine or something. And there are these glowing minerals buried in the walls. And this one little light is still floating around like a Tinkerbell kind of light and as it moves around, it trails behind little glowing specks. And every one I have to remind myself that this is a totally 3d space. So I have to stop and look up every once in a while. And look all around me. Oh, okay, so now the golden dot Tinkerbell is joined by a blue and a green and a red and they just exploded. And they're tearing away the blackness. And now I'm in space. Oh, everything's disappearing the rock, oh, the only thing that remains is the rock underneath my feet. And now I'm in a rock floating in space. And it looks like there's an exploding red star that is ejecting tiny little red dots all around. And now, now a green light has exploded. And now the blue light is exploding. So this is just an experience. This is taking me to a space. This is like a VR equivalent of watching a calm, mesmerizing YouTube video. Like that's what I would do here. But this is just something to experience. There's no game for me to play. It's just kind of be in this kind of mesmerizing world for a little while.

Christine Malec:

Is it something that makes you want to go back to it when you're not talking or describing?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, totall. Frankly, it would be the kind of thing like, Have a smoke and come back to this space would be the thing to do. Like it's like, yeah, it's Yeah, trippy, kind of like, you know, pour a glass of wine and in have one of these experiences.

Christine Malec:

And on the scale of like, obviously, it's it's a surreal environment. It's not real. But on the convincing scale of feeling like you're present there with whatever it is, how convincing is a tear to your imagination and your eye.

JJ Hunt:

Oh, that's an interesting question. So it wasn't like photorealistic. So it's not like it was. It's hard to explain like, it's not like I was tricked into believing that I was actually floating in space. But it's, it was convincing that I was in that I wasn't standing in my living room, that's for sure. I'm going to try the hypnosis. So it's achieve a trancelike state by fixating your attention on a swinging pendulum, and kaleidoscopic patterns in his guided hypnotic experience. When you awake, you will be relaxed. Okay, so again, I'm in this big disc, but I'm actually this is a guided meditation. And there's this very trippy bubble that's expanding and contracting as it's instructing me to inhale and exhale,

Oculus:

Now all the muscles of your body to relax

JJ Hunt:

And in front of me is this, I like sunflower that's shifting and moving. And I'm in space in my pool of water. Again, this is a really interesting way to be guided through a meditation instead of closing your eyes or three quarters, closing your eyes or focusing on a.on the floor. I'm being given this kind of hippie dippie, like, Paisley floral pattern, but very digital looking... object to focus on.

Christine Malec:

That's moving like it's dynamic.

JJ Hunt:

Its dynamic, in that it's slowly shifting, and then it's got this it's inside a bubble that expands and contracts to to influence my, my breathing. And now that I'm okay, now there's a digital pendulum swinging back and forth. So this pendulum is leaving behind a line. And I've seen versions of this with like pendulums that are sand drippers, where they slowly drift, little bits of sand, and they're pushed in a pattern. And so as the pendulum swings, it drips little bits of sand. And what follows is a pattern that's that's drawn on the ground. And it's doing that but instead of instead of dripping sand, it's drawing with these fluorescent lines, patterns on the floor.

Christine Malec:

Wow. I'm continually curious about the experience of dimension and distance and so we for your the experience, Have your eyes. Is it like you're looking? Not the quality of the image, but how your your eyes are physically functioning and how it feels? Does it feel like you're looking at a screen? Does it feel like you're looking at something in the room with you? Or does it feel like you're looking at something off in the distance.

JJ Hunt:

So this feels like it's floating in front of me in a like, what it feels like is right now I'm at like, I'm in a, in a huge gymnasium with the lights totally off. So I can't see where any of the edges are, I can't see where the walls are or the ceiling is. But it's a completely black space. There's no light anywhere except to this one pattern on the floor. And it does look like it's on the floor. It's angled in such a way so that the pattern is on the floor. And that if I was to guess I would say this fairly digital, not entirely convincing pendulum on a chain is maybe 20 feet in front of me. And that's it. This is a false space. Like this doesn't feel like it's trying to convince me I'm anywhere but in a blank space. Not like I'm in outer space. Just I'm in a blank in a minute blankness. I'm in an in an in between place.

Christine Malec:

Is that disorienting? Because that's not something you would normally experience in your day of looking around?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, you know, what's interesting, it's less disorienting if I was really focused on this meditation, which is guiding me through it, there's nothing about it. That's too unusual. It's just so black. It's okay. There's it's trippier if there's a little bit of something in the space.

Christine Malec:

We had talked about a different you know, surreal space, which was giraffe the Jurassic experience maybe that one is more movement oriented. Can we check that out?

JJ Hunt:

Totally. Okay, so I'm going to open up Jurassic World, and I haven't been in this space before. My visual field, everything around me is gone black. Everything around me is opening up. And I am in a virtual jungle, massive trees all around. There's a brontosaurus looking thing. Some like what I would have thought as a kid was a Brontosaurus. Long Neck Long Tail, it's sleeping in front of me. The belly as he's sleeping lying down is kind of heaving in and out. You can see that this creature is breathing. There's a jeep. over to my left. I've also got like a coffee mug, and a flashlight here. Oh, the dinosaurs looking up at me. And the cat didn't like that the cat that's actually in my space in my living room didn't lie. Okay, so this dinosaur is looking straight at me. And it's about to stand up. And it is rising. It's gotten to its feet and it's walking toward me. Okay, this is disconcerting. It is the head of it is really close. Really close. Like, I feel like I could reach out and touch its nose. It's that do you have to look up? No, it's, it's, it's looking at me with one eye and then head way up. Wow. So it's like rearing back like a like a horse. Head up. And now it's diving. Its head down really close to me. And who? Oh, it's no. Okay. Wow. Okay, it is on its hind legs and eating the leaves off the tree overhead. Okay, it just came back down on all four feet. And it's tailless swinging over my head. Yeah, no, this feels real. Yeah, yeah. So what's interesting about this is it's actually not the crispest cleanest image I've seen. It's a little bit fuzzy, it's a little bit blurry. Oh, but the interaction the way this creature came right up to me, and then did things like sweet like swinging its tail over my head and sniffing me was in tirely convincing despite the fact that it was a little tiny bit blurry. Okay, so, just to let you know, I can feel my physical position right now. I am squatting. I've got my like, my weight is back on my right foot. And I've kind of got my hands up like I'm about to protect my head like I'm feeling 100% physically engaged by that. All right, who want to try the other one? Yeah, yeah, I want to try the other one. So I'm getting a screenshot of what blue is going to be like and blue is a little dinosaur, like a like a raptor. Uh yeah, Velociraptor follow blue, a highly intelligent Velociraptor and she fights to survive to put the tumultuous Island Okay, so I'm gonna I think I'm going to be running alongside of Velociraptor as I go through this like jungle and like so plants and trees with these huge tropical leaves okay well okay so now I'm flying through space Oh this is cool so this is the the opening title card for Universal Studios, which is the word universal rising over the planet Earth. But this is the virtual reality version so this is I was floating in space as the giant world universal kept itself around the planet Earth. Oh my gosh, that's just the intro. Alright, so I'm in this jungle and this there's a velociraptor sleeping in front of me. So it's eyes. It's very reptilian eyes just opened up. And it's looking it's going to look at me any minute. Let's get into its feet and it's about my height. And it's a velociraptor and it's got very sharp looking claws. And like snake like eyes. Okay, now as it moves I'm what I'm kind of floating along beside it. So I am I think supposed to understand myself to be a fellow Volupte velociraptor. Okay, so it is slowly tiptoeing out of this little clearing in the forest and I am right beside it okay, it's turned its head to look at me the Triceratops it's it's a bit like a baby Triceratops is chasing a butterfly which is really cute except that it still looks like you could hurt me and it's just enthralled the Velociraptor just jumped over. okay. They're fighting in front of me about three feet in front of me. So they are standing off against one another. Oh geez a pterodactyl just flew in and scooped up the the Stegosaurus and then the Velociraptor leaped after the okay there's a lot of dinosaur fighting going on and it's really believable here. He this the Velociraptor is looking up at the sky the volcano volcano just exploded. Oh my god right in front of us. It was looking up at a mountain I thought it was looking at the sky and it's because a volcano just exploded. Okay now the world is coming up. Wow I'm now inside the volcanic ash as the as it's slowly starting to clear and as it clears I can see the ground all around me. Oh, there's the Velociraptor right in front of me face to face in the velociraptors looking around. Oh, my jeep is totally destroyed from earlier. And I'm tiptoeing along beside this Velociraptor as we kind of make our way through the wreckage. Oh, he's found a skeleton of another dinosaur. He's sniffing at the skeleton. The remains of this dinosaur picking picking up the bones.

Christine Malec:

Is he going in for dessert? I understand they are cannibalistic.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, yeah, he totally is. Oh, he's found some eggs but something else is coming. Oh geez. Like a T rex is here and attacking us. Okay. So there's something like it looks like a giant not a T rex is like a giant crocodile. Oh god and now Okay, now a real T Rex has just entered the scene. And it is facing me and the velociraptors hiding behind me. Oh, you can literally see the saliva when that T Rex just reached in to with its snout at me. I could see the saliva from the top jaw to the bottom jaw. The velociraptors jumped onto its neck just got flung at me by the T Rex. Okay, it's bearing right down on me. Its tongue is wagging right at me. Oh, oh. Oh, uh, helicopters flying in overhead. Oh, a helicopter because this is Jurassic Park. Okay, no,

Christine Malec:

You're gonna be rescued maybe?

JJ Hunt:

I hope so. Oh, okay. So now They've all all the dinosaurs have scattered when the when the helicopter flew over the second helicopters flying overhead. And so all the dinosaurs have had scattered. So this was like living a film this was composed like a short film designed like a short film all the velociraptors come back. Hey, buddy, hey, yo, how are you? That was weird eh?

Christine Malec:

Old friends, eh?

JJ Hunt:

Ya! It's funny like after that that amount of time when the Velociraptor came back I felt kinda. And this is written and directed by this team like this is produced like a short film that I was living in.

Christine Malec:

Over the past couple of episodes that we've done on VR. JJ, you had some technical assistance? Would you like to introduce your technical assistant? Because I have some questions for them.

JJ Hunt:

Yes, I'm very fortunate. Here at at our place we do have an in-house self described tech expert. This is my eldest, Owen. And an Owen has very kindly agreed to jump on mic with us. Some listeners might remember I got a little bit of help in the Minecraft episode. And that was Owen as well. So Owen is with me, in my basement studio today.

Owen:

I think I also did some describing of roadsigns.

Christine Malec:

That's right. Yeah. Yeah, I remember, that was very helpful.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, from the back seat in our cottage country episode I believe that was.

Christine Malec:

That was very fun. So Oh, and what we've heard your dad do was all just one person with the headset kind of moving around. But you do this interactively with friends. Right. So can you explain kind of how people would interact in the Oculus? And in that world?

Owen:

Yeah, sure. So it mean, it's different from like application to application. But the usual thing is, is that I have my headset on at my house, and they have Verizon at their house. And we're playing together in the same world. What would I see them as, of course, in VR, all you have is a headset and two controllers, it does not know where your legs are, it does not know where your elbows are. So in most games, you are either just a head and hands floating or ahead a torso and hands floating. There are a couple games that actually have legs for you, but they don't move with your actual legs. They're just separate.

Christine Malec:

Right. Right. How many people at a time could you be interacting with?

Owen:

Well, again, it is different from application to application. But usually there is like, I would say, maybe like a 50 person limit. It is not very restrictive whatsoever. I of course, don't have that many friends who have VR headset.

Christine Malec:

I don't have that many people do. Right?

Owen:

But yeah, in most situations like that. It's not that isn't the limiting factor.

Christine Malec:

What's the favorite thing to do? What's the most fun with with multiple people?

Owen:

One of two things. One is a game called gun Raiders, which is a fairly standard shooter. But it's in VR. So it has a little bit of extra coolness to it. And then another one that I don't have yet but I really want to get my friend has been playing a lot is kind of a survival game. It's a little bit like Minecraft, but in VR, and I want to I forget exactly what it's called. But I definitely want to do that with them.

Christine Malec:

Oh, my gosh, um, and this kind of brings me to a question that about favorite stuff. And the differences between your favorite stuff and your friends favorite stuff? versus say, your your parents favorite stuff. And so I'm not sure even where to go with this. But I guess you guys have all talked about this. So Owen, what is your take on what kinds of things you like to do in VR and people you're 16 So your friends your age like to do versus the things that your parents like to do? What's What are the differences in general, do you think?

Owen:

Oh, well, I would say the main thing me and my friends like to do is play video games. We are gamers. I mean, of course, our friend group is especially into gaming. Yeah. And so that is most of what we do on that is play video games. What we're looking for is fun gameplay and good game feel. But I would say specifically with my parents, they are not gamers, I think that's fair to say. Yeah, they are not into video games, that's not really something they enjoy doing much. So in a lot of games can be kind of confusing and very complicated where you have like precise button combos that you have to do. You know, just a lot of stuff you have to memorize in order to play the game. And so that's less of their cup of tea. So what I noticed To my parents and other adults that aren't gamers mostly like to do is they look for the experiences, not the somewhat interactive, but not interactive in the sense that you have a big challenge. But just interesting things that you would not otherwise get to experience or do.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, that's definitely that I would agree for me personally. And I, like I've got friends who are my age who are gamers, and they would be into games on Oh, in VR. But for me, the games just, I lose, I lose interest in the game element of it. I'm more, I'm more likely to stay involved if the experience continues to be interesting. If the visuals continue to be interesting. If I, if I truly believe I'm in a new space that I wouldn't otherwise have access to. That's going to hold my attention. Whether or not I have racked up enough points by shooting zombies. Right. It just doesn't that just doesn't hold me.

Christine Malec:

Were you ever a gamer, JJ?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, I played I had gaming systems when I was a kid, like I had the earliest Ataris. And the first Nintendo's and all that, and I certainly played as a kid, but I was never even then I had friends who were way more interested than I was. Just yeah, wasn't my bag.

Christine Malec:

I want to talk about what our bodies do when when our awareness is is in VR. So JJ in the the demos that that you did for us, it was obvious sometimes that your body was moving around in space. And so I want to ask both of you about this. But JJ first, what was your experience, like, of feeling located or dislocated in your actual physical space, when you were in VR was disorienting. Yeah, more than you expected.

JJ Hunt:

I mean, when you get into whatever world you're in, if the world is convincing, if the virtual world that you're in has been rendered in a convincing way, you very quickly forget that you're in your living room, or your bedroom, or wherever you really are transported to that new space, and my body responds accordingly. Like, I tip toe, or I lean cautiously, or if something swings at me, I duck, like, it's all so new to my brain. And my brain has spent a lot longer being in a world where real means real, like there's just, there's nothing to that I don't need to like, that's, that's an obvious statement for me real is real. And so if my brain tells me it's real, I duck like something swing, certainly, that's what I'm gonna do. But I but that's certainly not the case. With Owen, I think with with with Owen, and with our younger, or younger guy, neither of them respond physically to a virtual environment, the way that I do or the way that Lois does, would you say, Owen?

Owen:

I would say that that is very much accurate. Sometimes I know me and my friends, like the first time you play, or you get into an experience like that. So the first time I played Ritchie's plank experience, which is a game, it's also kind of just an experience where you are, you have to walk out onto a plank really high up above a city. And it is kind of known for being it's one of the earliest VR games and is known for being very nerve wracking. Yeah, and you know, hard to do. But I've like the first time I did that, I had the exact same physical reaction. Oh, unlike you guys. Like after the first time or two. I have no problem. Literally just walking out. None whatsoever anymore. Just because I I highly doubt that would be the same in real life if I was actually on that planet. Oh, because you know, it does look different. You can tell. I am done. Like being done being Yeah, yeah.

Christine Malec:

That's interesting. There were times, which didn't make it into our final episodes. But there were definitely times JJ, where you had become really disoriented. Like you took a guess as to where you thought you were in the room. Then Owen said, Nope, you're totally facing the other direction. So Oh, and what's it like to watch someone? And we're okay, we're not going to poke fun at your dad. Right? laugh at your dad. You know what? Okay, maybe a little bit. But what was it like? What's it like to watch someone in VR? And is it different watching an adult versus someone your age?

Owen:

It is so different watching an adult versus someone my age? The adults that I have seen? I do not. I am not in close contact with a lot of gamer adults who Oh, really? Who would be playing it the same way? I would. Yeah. So yeah, this is when I say adults, I mean, my parents.

Christine Malec:

Sure. That's a good qulification, thank you.

Owen:

Specifically with my dad, whenever you're playing whenever he's playing VR, no matter what the situation, he is very stable, I would say your stances vary a little bit bounce, a wide stance vary, you're trying to be as stable as possible, I would assume that that comes from a little bit of you can tell that it's not real, but you're also really immersed. So it's, your brain is having a little bit of a different like just a little bit of a difficult time figuring out exactly how, like

JJ Hunt:

it's a preparedness stance.

Owen:

If something like you know, jumps out at you or

JJ Hunt:

Like, I want to be, I'm ready for anything, I'm crouched

Owen:

Sure. a little bit low, my, you know, I got a little bit of bounce in my knees, something, something's off, and my body needs to be prepared something that'll get more extreme. Yeah. Whereas with me and my friends, it's, I've seen that that regular, you know, step steadiness only happens during those, like if something jumps out at you or something like that, like a moment of combat a moment of combat, and that's only for a second, and again, only the first couple of times. But after that fairly straight stand. One thing I will say it's this isn't just that everybody looks very silly playing here. Very, very silly playing VR, especially because, like because no one can see what you're doing. So what it just you look like a dork. It looks like you're reaching out for something. And then, like, yeah, in some games I've played to move forwards. You have to move your arms up and down as if your walk as as if like just just the motion your weight might make on like a jog. Right? You have to do that. And that looks ridiculous. If someone is standing in one place with a headset, doing that motion. It no matter who it is it look I know. I look like a dork. Whenever I'm doing it. Yeah, like a dork. My friends look like dork. That's hard to be great, everybody. It's very hard to be graceful. In game, you can look really graceful. But nobody else can see what you see. Everybody else is just seeing you being a dork

Christine Malec:

Oh to yourself.

Owen:

Yeah.

Christine Malec:

Fascinating. Or, you know, what I wonder is? Is there any footage of a theater crowd like a crowd in a movie theater from like, 1910 or something? Because I just keep going back to this idea of technology. It was always new and shocking until it isn't anymore. And yeah, like, I wonder if people are in silent films who are like, super reactive and startled easily and looked like they were?

JJ Hunt:

Well, isn't there, what's the famous case of the train?

Owen:

Yeah there's a story about like, not the first but one of the first video recordings was of a train filling, filling recording. Yes, you're right. It was of a train pulling into a station. Like, like from not quite head on, I actually we got to see the recording at a museum. But like a little bit to your left. It's like you were standing on a track looking down the track, you're standing right to the side on the platform, and the train comes at you on the left. And there's a story. I don't know how true this is. You know, but there is a story that the first time that was played in a theater in front of a bunch of people, they ran out of the theater because they thought a train was coming

JJ Hunt:

People were screaming...

Owen:

I can't confirm that, I wasn't there at the time.

JJ Hunt:

Heh heh.

Christine Malec:

Yeah yeah.

JJ Hunt:

But I think you're right, Chris. Like, I think it's like it is the case that when these new technologies come out, even if I mean intellectually, I'm sure people would have been understood that there wasn't an actual train about to burst through the screen. But the intellect disappears when when your brain is introduced with something that is genuinely scary for the first time. And so like, I know that that dinosaur tail is not really swinging at me. And yet, how do I not duck like how do I not in a virtual you know, Jurassic situation, duck when that you know, spiked tail comes whooshing over my head. Of course, I'm gonna duck

Christine Malec:

Until you get hardened. Sorry, go ahead Owen.

JJ Hunt:

That's right. That's right until I become hardened, ya.

Owen:

Yeah, I was gonna say, uh, one of my favorite quotes that I've seen, I don't know who said this, but it was human evolution is all about tricking your instincts. Human Evolution is all about trying to trick your instincts into doing different things. You know, you have like tricking, like, tricking your eyes with like video and moving pictures. Now we're tricking like our entire spatial awareness. Like, what is going you tricking your ears? It's all about tricking your brain.

Christine Malec:

Can you say that once more

Owen:

Human evolution is all about trying to trick your instincts into doing things.

Christine Malec:

That's wild. I'm gonna be thinking about that all the rest of today. On Saturday, August the 27th 2022. We'll be posting our last episode of Talk description to me... for now! The show is more popular than it's ever been. And we're still firmly committed to description rich programming. But there's been a tectonic shift in the financial position of the podcast. So we're going on hiatus to regroup and reimagine our model. The world of description is evolving fast, and funding models for creators and innovators haven't kept up. We're currently exploring new partnerships and envisioning new platforms that will not only allow us to keep creating content, but will also provide opportunities for other innovative creators, describers and allies to expand our collective view of what can be described and how we hope you'll stay subscribe to our podcast feed and our social media will be quieter, but will still be around. New episodes might pop up now and again, as world events unfold, and you can stay in touch with our other description related projects. We'll be closing our Patreon page for the time being limitless gratitude to those who stepped up to help support us, either with funds or with feedback. Stay tuned, there's more to come!

Surreal environments
Jurassic World
Teenage perspective