Design Sketches for Thoughtful VR Teleportation

In my last blog post, I shared some AR teleportation concepts that I designed.  That work piqued my interest in the teleportation problem set, so I built out a few new sketches:

If you want to try out the geometry-screen-wipe teleportation, download and run this (if you have a Vive).  To note, this demo was built for the purpose of illustration on a YouTube video, so more would need to be added to make the UX fully production-ready.

Additional Thoughts

I have to admit that the idea of VR teleportation (which I'll call "TP") always weirded me out.  In real life things don't just pop in and out of existence.  Entire environments less so.

Then after having tried out a bunch of VR TP examples from a variety of different applications, I felt proven both right and wrong at the same time.  There's no denying how useful and convenient it is, but something about it is still unsettling.  Not like rip-off-my-headset unsettling, but just unsettling enough to be distracting.

Diving a bit deeper into that feeling, I notice that I'm trying to rationalize a 4th dimensional experience with a 3rd dimensional brain.  Teleportation becomes a wellspring of nagging existential questions:  How'd I get from there to here?  Did I lose time in the process?  What happened to the old me?  What does "me" even mean in this context -- like did I momentarily stop existing during the transition?  Was I in an alternative universe?

Now, I know the argument: we'll get used to it, just give it time.  But that argument always felt wrong to me.  Firstly, it just ignores my dissatisfaction by sweeping it under the rug.  More importantly, though, it misses out on the huge design opportunities to exploit my reptilian desire to cling to conventional 3d wisdom.

TP violates the laws of physics, and there's no designing your way out of that.  Perhaps, though, clever design can provide a POV about this violation.  By hinting at answers, TP can be more than just a utility for getting around.  It can also serve as a story-telling device that drives the type of engagement you want.  For example, if your game is about being an assassin of the night, perhaps your TP mechanic leaves behind a small puff of smoke behind you and NPCs who saw it audibly gasp and freak out a bit.

That's not to say that the default TP mechanic (fade to black and back again) has no place, but I do wonder if if it will someday feel like the default Unity material under the default Unity light -- just enough to help scaffold new ideas, but too awkwardly devoid of opinion to be production-worthy.

More Sketches?

I have some more teleportation concepts that I'd like to figure out how to implement.  The two main ones are "data moshing" between positions to create trippy transitions and animating with crazy cross-section glides.  But perhaps I'll build those sketches another day.

Notes on How the Sketches were Made (for the curious)

If you happen to be interested in my process stuff, here goes:

First was lots of sketches / scribbling in my notepad.  After I got them all down, I reviewed them to see which ones I thought I'd be able to build and communicate in a reasonable manner.

Some of them were built in post w/ Premiere (dip to various colors / patterns, representational 2d screen).  The geometric wipe one was done in Unity because I thought that would be easier.

I chose to do the live action one IRL because I didn't want to learn how to paint a Unity camera's image onto a fake photograph that wafted in the wind.  That one involved a lot of hand dexterity, handling the phone, the photos, and the controller while dealing with the wind, passers by, etc...