Although its take-off is slow because the hardware is expensive, virtual reality has a lot to contribute to our lives – as much in the playful as in the educational or professional. Modern off-the-shelf virtual reality systems deliver realism and immersion through the use of sight and hearing. There are laboratory projects and separate serial devices that simulate physical contact and resistance of objects, but most often they are active VR headsets and gloves.
The German company Holotron has presented a full-body virtual reality exoskeleton that lets you feel and control all the forces your avatar feels. The most interesting thing is that this mechanism reflects in our body the resistance, inertia, and speed that is generated in the virtual world, to make us feel that we are there.
It is suspended on a wall and can tilt with a person in different directions, and is also able to reproduce the forces acting on the body during contact with objects of the virtual world. It can decide where the floor is in the virtual world, and what angle, and how it’s moving.
To control your avatar, you move like you normally would. It is as if you were there: walking, skating, swimming, jumping, flying, doing flips or summersaults. You can manipulate objects with your hands, feel their weight and all other forces. Others senses like smell, taste, temperature can be added.
This exoskeleton has two independent motors for each leg, one for each knee, and another two for the hip. But the final version will have five motors for each leg, and possibly later to arms, hands, and back as well. The current model is capable of replicating in virtual reality and in real-time any movement of the legs and trunk.
In particular, a significant part of the platform body is made of wood. In the future, engineers plan to create a more compact metal version that will not be mounted on a wall, but installed on the floor and suspended from a floor suspension.
It is obviously not a device to use at home, but it will have many interesting applications in training astronauts to travel to Mars, education, controlling robots in dangerous environments such as nuclear power plants or fire, amusement parks, and fairs, etc.