Researchers show virtual reality can be used to catch a real ball

Scientists from Disney Research have demonstrated how a person could use an interactive virtual reality system to reliably catch a real ball, according to a press release.

“Catching and feeling the real ball in your hand makes [virtual reality] VR much richer, more believable, more exciting, more interactive, more dynamic [and] more real,” Günter Niemeyer, MS, PhD, senior research scientist at Disney Research, said in the release.

Researchers recruited participants to test whether the coordination skills required to catch a ball could be applied in three variations of a virtual reality system. All variations used a motion capture system to track the ball, as well as the location of the participant’s hands and head.

The system virtually rendered the scene, which the participant viewed through a head-mounted display. One of the variations was similar to the real-world experience, in which the system rendered only the position of the ball. The two other variations showed either the predicted trajectory of the ball or a target area where a catch could be made.

According to the release, participants could reliably catch the ball in all three variations. When only the ball position was rendered, users caught 95% of the balls tossed underhanded to them. Catching was equally successful in the other modes, although the catching strategy changed when only the target location was identified. In those cases, the catcher’s hands reached the catch location too soon before the catch.

“With VR, we can show you the future by pre-rendering where the ball is going to be,” Niemeyer said the release. “For some types of interactions, game designers might choose to take advantage of VR to make certain tasks easier, just as using a net to catch balls might make some games more enjoyable.”


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