VR Degrees of Freedom Explained: The Difference Between 3DoF and 6DoF13 January 2021
In a time where we are asked to work and learn as remotely as possible, innovative technologies such as Virtual Reality help us remove the physical setting and transport us into an entirely simulated place. Virtual Reality (VR) allows us to be part of limitless immersive experiences. They can be educational, promotional or gamified and are built by computer technology usually assisted with a headset. Companies across the board are getting serious about VR, be it Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, branches of government, creative agencies, and other forward-thinking businesses. VR is used to support operations, training, marketing and sales.
There are two types of VR: three Degrees of Freedom and six Degrees of Freedom. Degrees of Freedom, or 'DoF', refers to how you move in a virtual environment with the use of a VR headset and additional hardware (controllers, VR gloves, processors, smartphones, etc).
- Three Degrees of Freedom: is usually limited to head movements (up and down, left to right and side to side). With three Degrees of Freedom, it’s only possible to rotate your head but not move around. Interacting with your environment is not directly possible with this type of VR. There are ways that you can simulate this – albeit in a way that isn’t entirely natural.
- Six Degrees of Freedom: is a more sophisticated version of VR and combines the rotation of the above with movement (front/back, up/down, and left/right). With six Degrees of Freedom, you can move around in any direction in a virtual space.
Here are the differences in movement allowance, costs, and the common uses for each Degree of Freedom.
3 Degrees of Freedom:
Movement: Three basic and restricted movements
Cost: Low cost for development and for users (hardware starting at £10)
Experience / Uses: Smartphone app assisted experiences including pre-recorded video content, content-led marketing, tradeshow giveaways, and novelty purposes.
6 Degrees of Freedom:
Movement: Six movements – allowing you to look and move in any direction with multiple vantage points
Cost: Medium to high cost for development and for users (hardware ranging from hundreds to thousands of pounds)
Experience / Uses: Practical applications in education, military training, gaming, healthcare and many other VR experiences that require real-time interactivity and movement rather than pre-recorded video. Usually paired with controllers and/or hand-tracking technology. More sophisticated than 3DoF.
Deciding Between Three Degrees of Freedom and Six Degrees of Freedom: a Comparison of VR Costs and Experiences
Cost is the most common driver between choosing between 3DoF and 6DoF. Headsets with 6DoF functionalities can range anywhere from hundreds to thousands of pounds whereas 3DoF can be achieved with the use of a smartphone and a £10-30 gadget such as Google Cardboard. So, when should you invest in 6DoF and when is 3DoF enough?
Before investing in VR, it is important to know exactly what type of experience you are looking for. 3DoF is not obsolete and has its place. In 2015, NBC and Samsung released a 3DoF VR experience based on Jerry Seinfeld’s Questions from the Audience segment. A camera was strategically positioned in the stand among the audience, giving users a feel for what it would be like sitting with the audience. Users were able to turn their head from side to side to catch Taylor Swift and Michael Douglas among other celebrities conversing, as if they were seated during the show. Andrew Elia, our Managing Director, explains why 6DoF would not be necessary in this instance. “This example works really well with three Degrees of Freedom because you’re not going to get up and walk around the audience (just as you would not do in an actual theatre). Pre-recorded video does not work with six Degrees of Freedom, because the video is designed to be recorded and from a single point and you can’t dynamically change a viewpoint with video. 3DoF VR applications have opened the door for new promotional opportunities for brands. Companies generally opt to invest in 3DoF if they are looking to create an inexpensive, content-led experience whether it's at a tradeshow or to be used as a promotional tool delivered directly to the user. That’s where VR starts to lean more on the novelty side rather than as a practical application.”
For more sophisticated, interactive and educational VR uses, 6DoF is the best option. The ability to move around within the VR experience makes 6DoF a more immersive experience which lends itself to more creative and educational uses. We predict a move away from joystick technology, which requires gaming experience to be really straightforward, to the increased adoption of hand-tracking technology will make interactivity feel more natural and increase VR adoption. VR gloves utilise hand-tracking cameras combined with robust AI to track movements, figure out your bone structure and friction in your skin, and the exact position of your fingers in the gloves. Combining these two technologies makes for a much more tactile experience with a far shallower learning curve.
We are currently working with educational institutions who are investing in VR technology to enhance their learning experience. We will have some exciting stories on this to share in future blogs.
What are the key differences between 3DoF and 6DoF? 3DoF is not obsolete. It serves a purpose in marketing and branding experiences and is widely used due to low costs and easy accessibility. 6DoF is more sophisticated. It leverages the fullest extent of VR technology to produce fully immersive training, educational, gaming and other interactive experiences. Both options have a place in the market, but serious VR applications will continue to go down the 6DoF route. We predict that hand-tracking technology and decreasing costs will lower the barriers to entry and increase the uptake of 6DoF VR over the next few years.
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