New Vitual Reality system lets you ‘feel’ rain

Washington: Disney Research has developed a 360-degree virtual reality application using a unique chair to provide full body sensations that enables users to add customisable “feel effects” such as falling rain or a beating heart, says PTI.

“Virtual reality has seen a renaissance in recent years as advancements in computer graphics, computing platforms and the seamless flow of information between hardware and software have come together in a powerful way,” said Ali Israr, senior research engineer at Disney Research Pittsburgh in the US.

“Our team is working to make VR haptic sensations just as rich as the 360-degree visual media now available,” he said. “Current VR systems provide ‘buzz-like’ haptic sensations through hand controllers. But technology exists for much richer sensations,” Israr said.

“We’ve created a framework that would enable users to select from a wide range of meaningful sensations that can be adjusted to complement the visual scene and to play them through a variety of haptic feedback devices,” he said.

The haptic playback and authoring plug-in developed by the researchers connects a VR game engine to a custom haptic device. It allows users to create, personalise and associate haptic feedback to the events triggered in the VR game engine.

The haptic definition app, called VR360HD, was developed and tested using a consumer headset and Disney Research’s haptic chair. The chair features a grid of six vibrotactile actuators in its back and two subwoofers, or “shakers,” in the seat and back.

The grid produces localised moving sensations in the back, while the subwoofers shake two different regions of the body and can create a sensation of motion. Users were able to select from a library of feel effects, also assembled and tested by Disney Research.

These feel effects are identified with common terms such as rain, pulsing or rumbling, and can be adjusted so that people can distinguish, for instance, between a light sprinkle and a heavy downpour.

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