Catching A Ball – VR’s Killer App


Yesterday, I was bombarded with articles, Tweets, and posts about the AMAZING work being done by Disney in VR. That amazing work?

Catching a ball in VR.

First of all, I’d like to congratulate Disney and they talented VR team for overcoming such a difficult barrier in the challenging field of ball handling. Secondly, I’d like to express a level of extreme gratitude for the dozens of media outlets that felt the need to share this necessary advancement in the world of VR.

This ends the sarcasm section of this blog post.

Seriously? Why did this get so much coverage? At first, I thought that maybe I had missed something. Maybe there was more to it than just watching a dude catch a ball with an HMD on. I started to parse through the video a bit. It appears that the major selling point to this breakthrough is a predictive marker that will show the catcher where the ball will be and where to put his hand in order to best catch the ball.

Last year, at GDC, I had the opportunity to try out the OptiTrack system in a large setup. I was wearing an HMD, and was throwing a basketball back and force with a guy wearing a fully tracked body suit. In the headset, I saw a stick figure and the ball. When he threw the ball at me… I caught it! I caught it on a bounce, I caught it thrown directly to me, and I was even able to spin the ball on my finger, Globetrotter style. This occurred without the need for predictive ball tracking.

I am not a coordinated person, nor am I an expert Sportsball player. Somehow, I was easily able to catch the ball, without computer aided assistance. How did I do this?

My brain is able to predict exactly where the ball is going to be, even in VR.

I watched the Disney video again. Yes, he did appear to be putting his hand where the ball was going to be BEFORE it got there, thus making his hand placement faster than the ball’s movement. He still fumbled a tiny bit, but he seemed more confident when he received the ball.

I would like to see them try a new experiment. Let him see the actual ball tracked in VR, and then make the prediction be wrong. Let’s see if he believes the tracked ball, or the prediction. Would it confuse him? Would he choose the rely on the prediction, or his own brain telling him where the ball is.


I eagerly await Disney’s video of my suggested experiment. THAT would really impress me.