WTF?! I have reported extensively on ways that developers are trying to make virtual reality more immersive. It’s one of my favorite topics. I love technologies that make VR more like real life. However, a robot out of the University of Portsmouth may be a bit much.
Several companies are working on gloves that provide haptic feedback and realistic resistance when griping virtual objects. Google has a patent for motorized shoes that will let VR users walk around in a game without bumping into walls in real life. Let's not forget Feelreal, which has a “Sensory Mask” that allows players to smell odors in games.
For the most part, I am all for immersive VR technologies, but James Bruton and the University of Portsmouth might have taken immersion a little bit too far by developing a robot that can fight humans while they play a game in VR.
Bruton is an electrical engineer and YouTube content creator who has been posting videos of his robotic creations for the last several years. His latest video showcases a robot that will punch you in real life while you are fighting it in VR. Why not just take off the headset and fight it for real is anyone’s guess.
The bot has a wooden base with wheels and two pneumatic arms wielding boxing gloves that it uses to punch the player. An Arduino Mega serial interface powers the robo-gladiator. Vive sensors track the robot’s arms as well as the player’s visor and baton, and the actions are synced to a custom made VR game in real-time.
The contraption and software were created with the help of engineering students at the University of Portsmouth’s Computer Game Technology program. Since the robot was just part of the students' final-year degree project, don’t expect to see the accessory in stores.
Even if it were available — for immersive VR technologies — I'd take a pass on this one.