What is Microsoft DreamWalker?
When VR was massively popularized several years back, the future potential for it was such a promising thing as VR was indeed a technological wonder to behold. However, after the initial public amazement and the years starting to go by, VR has started to become a technological tool which could be used for a variety of daily and specialized activities. One thing is certain though about the function of VR, it enhances or replaces the current reality as we see it and the value of this depends on how we use it either to upgrade or degrade the way we live our lives.
In introducing new advances about VR, it would be quite normal to expound on the advantages and technological wonders of it, but then, we have to keep in mind on the practical aspect and perceived future use of the technology involved not just from a marketable point of view but from a beneficial one as well. Questions will then arise on whether it will it be able to help people in the long run, or will it be used as a weapon to destroy or damage others. After all, it may just be another viable and awesome mode of entertainment for the coming years.
As mankind continues to progress, people are beginning to see the negative aspects of humanity which has kept the planet's population and society as a whole from moving forward in it's path of evolution. Thus VR as a technology should be a tool for humanity to use and not it's master and thus should be applied and advanced in such a way to fulfill the said function. This now brings us to DreamWalker which is a new endeavor being researched upon by Microsoft.
Project DreamWalker is the brainchild of researchers Jackie Yang, Eyal Ofek, Andy Wilson and Christian Holz. What they intend to achieve is to replace the current real time environment with a VR one while taking into account the physical factors that make up the real reality and integrate it into the projected virtual one. It's kind of like the movie 'Ready Player One' where you can run around the streets wearing your VR headset and not bump into the obstacles all around you. The existing 3rd density world is the same all around but what you see via your headset maybe another location or reality depending on the VR representation being projected to you.
At the current technology we have today, the equipment required may be quite a bit bulky by current standards. You will need a computer strapped to your back along with the power supply for it and the VR headset you will use. You will need a couple of RGBD cameras and a VR recording camera stuck to your headset (inside out tracking) and you will need a good positioning device like a dual band GPS phone to accurately pinpoint where you are. With a handheld controller and this set-up strapped to you, you can then walk the street of your city, a park or some other accessible area where your equipment will work and what you will see with your headset (which you are suppose to wear through the whole process) is totally another thing but the real thing.
As this is still in the research stage, technologically, it looks promising although they will need to shrink down the equipment to probably at least integrated headset size (like the Oculus Quest) to be of any practical use. As for practicality for future use, when it comes to outside environs, AR is still the best technology for use. Maybe inside a gym or a huge empty warehouse with obstacles for simulation or gaming purposes (going back again to the Oculus Quest), VR applications would be awesome. If you look at it, currently though, the beings who could benefit the most from this kind of sensor and positioning feedback to grope their way around the outside world are the AI machines like the droids, the drones and the robots. Not people.
However, knowing Microsoft, they (hopefully) have or will have some good use for this. It would be difficult or impractical to speculate as to where this endeavor will head to at this point as it seems pointless to waste the cost and effort to come up with something like this. An outdoor VR game might probably be in the works or at least planning stage knowing the limitations of current headsets like the Oculus Quest for use in well lighted outdoor environments. But just to think of it, the reason given which is "to assist the user to reach their destination via the Virtual World through visual redirection and normal walking speeds as it detects real obstacles along the way and generate flawlessly corresponding VR obstacles to prevent collision in real time" just does not compute. Even the visually impaired can use a cane or walking stick to safely get across, what more someone with good vision.
Regardless, VR is best used for simulation (real time or otherwise) and an indoor environment is definitely a lot safer than the app having a glitch and the user falling headlong into a pond (the ducks will be mad). But then, it's still best to think positive and who knows, they may just really put all of this to good use.