This Robot Lets You Feel Virtual Objects

Virtual reality headsets use your eyes and ears to make things seem real, but the future of VR is all about incorporating the other senses. Researchers at Stanford University have our hands and fingers covered. They have come up with a way for you to virtually feel virtual objects, with the help of a weird robot.

It’s called ShapeShift. It’s a robot that has a dense grid of “pins” on top, and a set of optional wheels on its bottom. A tracking marker syncs the location of the ShapeShift box to the location of your hands in a virtual reality world. So when you touch a virtual object, the pins extend and retract to form a representation of that object in the real world, thereby allowing you to feel it.

Pretty cool right? Sure, this won’t simulate the softer things, like petting a cat in VR, but it should be convincing enough for other kinds of object. Yes, folks. This is the first step toward being able to feel things in our own personal holodecks. You could imagine a room with walls that are made with this sort of mechanism, and it could be used to create unique terrain underfoot as well.

It will be interesting to see where this technology goes from here.

[via Gizmodo]

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ZephVR Adds Wind Simulation to Virtual Reality

If you’ve ever strapped on a proper virtual reality headset like an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive, you know how truly immersive today’s VR experiences can be. But there are still some things that break the illusion, like not being able to truly walk around, and the way things FEEL versus the way things LOOK.

In the interest of making VR experiences even more realistic, ZephVR is developing an inexpensive add-on for VR goggles that is designed to produce simulated wind while you make your way through the VR landscape.

The ZephVR adds a pair of lightweight fans to your goggles, and hits you with a breeze of air that’s synchronized with your VR games. Apparently, it uses audio from VR games and machine learning algorithms to listen for wind noise to determine when to blow its fans, rather than detecting player movements. I think that approach seems a little odd, but I’m guessing it’s easier to intercept the audio compared to trying to determine movements in 3D space.

In addition to the autonomous mode for gameplay, the fans can be turned on full time in case you just want to keep cool while playing. Plus, the system is compatible with all three major VR platforms, Rift, Vive, and PlayStation VR.

The early bird deal for the ZephVR has the add-on priced at just $75, so it’s a reasonably inexpensive add-on to your VR rig. It’s an interesting idea, though I think you might want to wait to test one out before jumping into the Kickstarter fray on this one.

Design Your Own VR Games with AppGameKit

Want to create a virtual world of your own? The Complete AppGameKit VR Starter’s Kit will teach you how to create your very own VR games… and maybe even make money from them.

With AppGameKit’s scripting system, anyone can quickly code and build apps for multiple platforms. You’ll learn how to create VR experiences from scratch by detecting users’ movements, controlling their positions within a scene, and accommodating both seated and standing experiences. You’ll even learn how to properly incorporate sound to create an even more realistic gaming experience. Learn the AppGameKit programming language in no time – even if you’re a total beginner.

The Complete AppGameKit VR Starter’s Kit will start you on the road to game development for just $29.99 in the Technabob Shop.

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Take a Walk on the Mild Side

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As far as virtual reality has come, the goggles haven’t quite caught up to speed. Unlike regular bulky VR goggles, MILD introduces a more friendlier, more familiar way to enjoy VR.

They’re designed to look similar to sunglasses so people can imagine wearing them in everyday life. Made of plastic and clad in soft fabric, they’re inviting, even soothing, to wear. Simply attach the ergonomic, one-size-fits-all strap, and BAM! You’ll be in a whole new world… and quite comfortably at that!

Designer: Heejin Youn

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