Using the Turris
To make a long story short, I've taken the Turris for a spin a number of times, and it works exactly as described. The only fiddly part of using the chair is the initial "butt calibration" required to find a natural resting center that doesn't trigger the switches. Since I'm evaluating a chair used for public demos, it's configured with a one-size-fits-all approach. That calibration worked OK, but not great.
Fine-tuning the chair for my natural seating position took a few minutes of trial and error. I alternated between sitting on the unit and kneeling next to the chair to adjust the stops and pivot points. I'd estimate that those few minutes got me about 90% of the responsiveness I wanted. If I had unlimited access to the Turris, I would want to go another round or two with it to really get it dialed in.
I've mostly used the Turris with the Oculus DK2 in two different demos that showcased its compatibility with two different engines: Unity and Unreal. Turris has a CryEngine demo in the works, but it's not quite ready yet.
The first demo I tried, PolyWorld, is a Unity-powered project that supports the de-coupled tracking of the headset and the Turris. I found it simple and intuitive to traverse the demo's small town and its surrounding caves and bridges, all without using my hands. Since PolyWorld is a demo for new Turris users—and newbies to VR in general— the PolyWorld experience is slow and exploratory in nature.
You'll recall that the forward, backward, left, and right controls on the Turris are binary in nature. Because it's seen as an Xinput device, though, the travel speed when each switch is triggered can be set to different levels in software. During my demo, Aaron pranked me by cranking up the speed behind the scenes. That change surprised and disoriented me a bit, but it didn't make me nauseous. I've played seated VR demos with the DK2 before, and that experience has taught me that I have motion sickness issues. I suppose that the de-coupled awareness of the Turris made the difference in this case, though. With the Turris keeping tabs on my torso, my virtual face-camera wasn't able to make any promises to my brain that my body couldn't keep.
The second demo I tried was built in-house at Turris using the Unreal Engine. It's tailor-made to make the user immediately aware of their presence in the game and highlight the difference that de-coupled movement makes. It's ingeniously simple— just a mirror in VR that you can use to see your virtual self—but it's strangely compelling. Even without the mirror, you can see your body in this demo. If you turn your head, you can look at your shoulders and see your head move in the mirror. If you keep your head still and rotate the Turris, you can see that your feet are pivoting on the ground without your head moving. Running through the maze after you've checked yourself out in the mirror is also a smart way to show off how effectively the Turris operates.
Even though the body-weight-shifting or torso-tilting motions one makes to activate the Turris work naturally for the most part, there are situations where something you want to do in VR might be at odds with the inputs the Turris offers. A good example of this is leaning to peak around a virtual corner. With keyboard FPS controls, you would typically use the Q or E key for this motion. In VR, well, you just actually peek around a corner. If you're seated on a Turris, that lean could send your character strafing out from behind cover and into danger. Developers might have to build in a feature that temporarily disables body control and only registers head tracking to get around this issue.
The Unreal engine supports the Leap Motion controller, as well, which theoretically allows for fully-articulated hand tracking in VR without a controller. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to try out the Turris and the Leap working together. I have tried the Leap with its most recent software update separately, though, and it's fairly impressive. I've also tried the hand controllers included with HTC's Vive since running the Turris demos, and the Vive controllers are quite effective as virtual graspers. I can see how either of these two technologies could go hand in hand with the Turris to create a much more dynamic seated VR experience than an Xbox One controller in a normal desk chair offers.
Before wrapping up, I want to make three other small notes about the Turris. First, the appearance of the chair seems to be trying to straddle professional and "gamer" aesthetics. I know many TR readers aren't impressed by the trappings of traditional gaming peripherals ,and I generally feel the same way. The design of the chair isn't final, but in its present state I think it could blend in with many interior environments without issue. Second, I should mention the noise the Turris makes while it's rotating. It's quiet, but not silent—somewhere between noiselessly swiveling on an office chair and the sound the same office chair would make rolling over carpet. Lastly, I think it's important to mention that even though the Turris is a specialty VR peripheral, it's also just a chair, so it doesn't require any dedicated storage space or elaborate setup process to use.
Praevidi, Aaron's company, spends a lot of time explaining why de-coupled movement is so important on its site, but after my experience with the device I think I can describe its value more succinctly. The short version is that when simulating something as all-encompassing as reality, tracking head and torso position independently could be just as important as tracking your hands for creating a sense of immersion and presence (and seriously, devs, put some mirrors in your games—that helps, too). I now know how true this is for seated VR experiences, but my sense is that torso-tracking will need to be addressed in room-scale VR, as well.
The pieces of the VR puzzle are still coming together. I haven't quite seen them all put together yet, even though I've come closer than most. I believe that bringing your hands into VR with hardware like the HTC Vive controllers or hand-tracking sensors like the Leap is a critical piece of the puzzle. I'm not sure I would go so far as to call the Turris "seated room-scale VR," but the way that the Turris subtly involves one's feet and torso in the VR experience makes a strong impression that it can be an edge or maybe even a corner piece of the VR puzzle.
The Turris doesn't have a release date or price yet, but Praevidi is targeting the fourth quarter of this year for the release of the Gear VR-compatible version. The company is also making units available to developers that want to incorporate the Turris into their VR experiences.