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Walking, Wind&Heat in VR

VR head-mounted displays and omnidirectional treadmills combined with infrared lamps and fans can simulate walking, wind and heat in a computer-generated virtual reality (VR).

Virtualizer-WindHeat1.jpg

Cyberith Virtualizer with larger ring, infrared lamps and fans[1]

Motivation

VR head-mounted displays

Modern VR head-mounted displays generally have a smartphone-sized display, lenses and fast, precise motion sensors. The display is magnified by the lenses and occupies a large portion of the user's vision of view. A computer generates the display content corresponding to the head motion and the simulated virtual environment. If this happens fast enough (~20 ms motion to photon latency) the impression is generated, that you do not in fact only look at display but that you are really present in the simulated virtual world. 2015 one such head-mounted display, the Oculus Rift, is expected to be available for consumers for 300-400$.

Virtual Worlds

Possible applications for VR are practically unlimited.

Classical computer games become an immersive experience.

Concerts, safaris, hot air ballooning, scuba diving, etc. can be recorded with 360° 3D cameras and enjoyed from home.

Virtual museums can enable everybody to virtually examine archaeological artifacts, excavation sites and realistic reconstructions in all detail. We will not be restricted to documentary videos, pictures or texts anymore. We will be able to vividly experience the construction of the pyramids, antique Rome or dinosaurs.

Architects do not have to rely on small scale models or renderings on a normal computer display. They will be able to virtually go inside their buildings long before they are physically built.

Omnidirectional Treadmills

Virtualizer-prototype2.jpg

Second prototype of the Cyberith Virtualizer

Here omnidirectional treadmills come into play. If you are in a virtual world you will also want to move around. Standard computer inputs (keyboard, controllers) will work, of course. But omnidirectional treadmills can increase immersion by providing the ability to physically walk instead of only hitting some keys.

Until recently these treadmills have been big and expensive (~100 000 $)[2]. With the Cyberith Virtualizer and the Virtuix Omni this is about to change. Both treadmills are much more compact and cheaper and will be available in 2015. In these the user is held in place by a ring support construction while slip-walking on a low-friction surface. The Virtualizer has the additional advantage of providing the possibility to knee and sit down.

Concept

More Arm Freedom

Virtualizer-more-arm-freedom.jpg

Cyberith Virtualizer with larger ring

The necessary ring constructions of the Virtualizer and Omni lead to a negative side effect. The user always has to keep his arms at an angle. A bigger ring as shown in the picture above could enable more arm freedom. When walking the user can now have his arms in a more relaxed, natural position.

Heavily overweight persons could also use the Virtualizer if the ring diameter was increased.

A larger ring will however also increase costs and could impede rotating a bit. How strong this effect is could be tested by a prototype.

Wind&Heat

Virtualizer-WindHeat2.jpg

Cyberith Virtualizer with larger ring, infrared lamps and fans

If infrared lamps and fans are installed onto the three support pillars of the Virtualizer, wind (head wind, weather) and heat sources (sun, fire, ambient temperature) can be simulated from all directions.

Reduced Gravity

Virtualizer-reduced-gravity.jpg

Cyberith Virtualizer with additional counterweights added to simulate a reduced gravity

The current version of the Virtualizer uses a balance system to compensate for the weight of the ring construction with counterweights probably hidden in the three columns. If standard disc weighs are added as counterweights the user will be pulled upwards. This could simulate walking in environments with reduced gravitation like the Moon or Mars.

Sources

  1. ^   All pictures rendered from own computer model. Low poly character by Tehjoran - blendswap.com
  2. ^   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VirtuSphere
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