The New Virtual Reality
Reported April 2006
SEATTLE (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- A new virtual reality device lets you move around your virtual environment by actually walking, running, jumping and rolling without bumping into objects in the room.
Step inside the hollow ball and you can go virtually anywhere. It's Kate Peterson's first time inside the VirtuSphere virtual-reality device. She says, "You kind of have to take a leap of faith, but once you get there it's a lot of fun, for sure."
Alexey Palladin, former CEO of VirtuSphere, Inc. in Redmond, Wash., says, "If you can put a person inside the sphere and have the sphere rotate, you will have limitless possibilities of traveling in virtual reality."
In this case, it's to the site of Moscow's bid for the 2012 Olympic games. A head-mounted display gives Kate a virtual environment. Sensors under the sphere send info on its speed and direction to a computer, while Doppler ultrasound tracks Kate's every move.
Suzanne Weghorst, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the Human Interface Technology Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, says, "It solves a problem that we have, you know, struggled with for awhile in virtual reality research, and that is: How do you get people to move around in virtual environments in a natural way?"
By combining psychology and computer science, researchers are studying various options for VirtuSphere. Training for firefighters, exercise and rehab are all possibilities. "You could make some progress using this that you'd be afraid to do perhaps in real life," Weghorst says.
Video games are also in the sphere's future, as is education. Instead of walking through Moscow, perhaps students could experience walking on the moon.
Some scientists argue VirtuSphere and other virtual locomotive devices are immature to use as mainstream products, mainly because of the risks of moving around in a rotating device without seeing where your feet are going.
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For more information on sciences that apply to how humans interact with devices and systems:
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PO Box 1369
Santa Monica, CA 90406
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