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 Remote-Controlled Humans

This story is from the category Sensors
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Date posted: 09/08/2005

With a nervous smile on her face, a young woman walks forwards in a straight line. Suddenly, she veers to the right. She stops immediately, stumbling a little in the process, regains her balance, and walks forwards again ? before veering off again, this time to the left.

She is not drunk, her body is being remote-controlled.

Her vestibular system, control nexus for the twin senses of movement and balance has been thrown out of whack by two weak electrical fields, delivered just behind her earlobes. A bit like a helicopter, the two field generators work like steering pedals, controlling direction and movement by varying their signal strengths.

This stimulation is called galvanic vestibular stimulation, or GVS. When a weak DC current is delivered to the mastoid behind your ear, your body responds by shifting your balance toward the anode. The stronger the current, the more powerful its pull. If it is strong enough, it not only throws you off balance but alters the course of your movement.

This new use for an old idea was debuted at Siggraph 2005 by the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, as a new VR interface.

Galvanic vestibular stimulation recieved relatively little interest up until the last 20 years. If researchers at the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Communication Science Laboratories have their way, that interest may soon accelerate - and even go commercial. NTT researcher Taro Maeda is responsible for the project, codenamed "Shaking the World".

A device looking a lot like a pair of headphones is used to place the pulse generators on your head ? which means the devices can easilly be integrated into a HMD unit.

As the prototype is remote-operted, a small radio control is added to direct the strength and direction of the signal.

Because it stimulates movement and balance, the GVS device is attracting attention as a replacement for expensive flight simulators for pilot training ? the exact same effects can be achieved by electrical stimulation, making the user feel that they are moving in any direction, at any speed.

On top of that of course, gaming has definite possibilities. A compact device that gives you all the feeling of actually being in that race car, feeling the centripetal force of that last turn, or the flattening acceleration itself. First person shooters would feel like you were actually moving through them, weapon recoil might be possible,

Then of course, there are virtual worlds themselves. Full sensation of movement and balance is a great boon to these immersive environments.

Manabu Sakurai, NTT's marketing manager, says the company is currently investigating whether or not gamers would be interested in the device. Flight simulators are another area of interest.

"Many people talk about that," Sakurai explained. "Because GVS causes you to feel the same kinds of motion as a large-scale flight simulator, it could be a much simpler and more cost-effective way to train people."

See the full Story via external site: www.forbes.com

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