New Virtual Reality Suit Lets You Reach Out & Touch ‘Environment’

Lucian Copeland, co-founder of the University of Rochester student group NullSpace VR, models the Mark IIB prototype of their virtual reality suit — a low-cost, full upper body haptic feedback system for virtual reality– at the group’s lab in the HTR student incubator in West Henrietta January 11, 2016. // photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester

Virtual reality could one day incorporate all the senses, creating a rich and immersive experience, but existing virtual reality headsets only simulate things you can see and hear. But now, a group of engineers wants to help people “touch” virtual environments in a more natural way, and they built a wearable suit to do just that.

Designed by Lucian Copeland, Morgan Sinko and Jordan Brooks while they were students at the University of Rochester, in New York, the suit looks something like a bulletproof vest or light armor. Each section of the suit has a small motor in it, not unlike the one that makes a mobile phone vibrate to signal incoming messages. In addition, there are small accelerometers embedded in the suit’s arms.

The vibrations provide a sense of touch when a virtual object hits that part of the body, and the accelerometers help orient the suit’s limbs in space, the researchers said. [Photos: Virtual Reality Puts Adults in a Child’s World]


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