How to catch a ball while in VR

There’s one thing we know for sure with virtual reality (VR): the possibilities are untapped. We don’t even know the fullest extent of what we can do. We're constantly making new discoveries and uncovering new innovations. One recent experiment, released by Disney Research, pushes the envelope of discovery even further by bridging the divide between a real experience with a virtual one.

Earlier this week, Disney Research released a video from one of their experiments. It depicts a person in VR gear catching a real ball with realistic movements. The person in VR doesn't see the ball but he is reacting to a virtual ball.

To create a system where a user can catch a real ball while in a VR experience, Disney Research looked at three visualizations: “rendering a matching virtual ball, the predicted trajectory of the ball, and a target catching point lying on the predicted trajectory.”

The team tracked the ball’s motion as it was tested between subjects. They were able to predict where the ball would travel as it is in the air by using Kalman Filtering systems. This assistance helped the user catching the ball by increasing the user’s senses and altering the strategy in catch the ball.

"While small latencies exist in our system and objects such as the user's hands are rendered abstractly, our system allows users to be quite adept at catching balls while in VR," reads Disney Research's abstract. "Thus, combining virtual and physical dynamic interactions to enrich virtual reality experiences is feasible."

The experiment was performed under the guidance of Matthew Pan and Günter Niemeyer of Disney Research Los Angeles. They are both scientists, working with Disney. Yes, you heard it right, Disney has scientists working for them.

The connection for creating experiences that blend the real world and the virtual world could have far-reaching applications. While Disney Research isn’t quick to say what they plan on doing with this new information, other than studying it further, some people are quick to make their predictions.

Adario Strange, over at Mashable, believes this may be another indication of the genesis of VR technology. “Whether we get there through haptic feedback suits,” says Strange. “Real world object tracking, or perhaps a combination of the two, Disney Research's experiment is yet another indication that we're just at the beginning of a number of exciting experiments in VR that may help it become, as many are predicting, the final computing platform.”