Today’s virtual reality systems focus on providing individual users with as real a view of an imaginary world as possible. Essentially, VR might put us into completely fantastical settings, but they focus on making them as real as possible to us as individuals.
Apparently, Sony wants to augment VR by providing users not only with their own perspective on virtual worlds, but allowing them to share the perspectives of other users as well. The company calls this “superception,” and it promises to add another layer to the VR experience.
Sony introduced the new concept at SXSW, and the idea behind superception — the combination of “super” and “perception” — is that technology can expand the individual’s perception by connecting together the perceptions of multiple people. According to Sony researcher Shunichi Kasahara, “The core idea behind it is to use technology to go beyond the limitations of our human perspective. This could be a nomadic VR application where we use it in outdoor game settings.”
Specifically, Sony asserts that sharing perspectives can increase empathy among VR users while allowing each user to gain a more powerful perceptual capability. The system works by splitting the VR display into four sections, one for the user and then three for other users moving through the same virtual scene. As Engadget attests, the experience is disconcerting at first, but eventually, the user adjusts to the multiple perspectives and gains a better sense of the virtual environment than could be achieved alone.
One example of superception technology at work was an experiment where a group of users coordinated the creation of a sketch of the Statue of Liberty by utilizing shared input. At SXSW, another group of users engaged in a chase through a warehouse where each participant could experience the first-person perspectives of the others.
Whether or not Sony’s technology will make it into shipping VR products anytime soon remains up in the air. If it does, though, it could help users see things a little differently by looking at a virtual world through the eyes of other people.