For all the leaping and bounding it's making in the companionship department, virtual reality is still bereft of physical contact. Sure, it may seem like you're making contact, but sometimes you wish your avatar had a little more meat on its virtual bones.
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Then consider Different Dimensions to the rescue. The Japanese start-up will soon begin marketing an augmented reality robot to physically embody the appearance of a virtual character.
Here's how it works. Basically, a computer-generated image is projected in real-time onto a robot covered with green screen material. Perhaps you've seen people sporting those kinda-creepy, full-body green unitards on Halloween? These robots look exactly like that.
The prototype, dubbed U-Tsu-Shi-O-Mi, is a "virtual humanoid" and an example of "mixed reality," meaning objects in the virtual world are combined with physical objects in the real world for a more corporeal experience. Seen through their head-mounted display visors, video images are integrated with a computer-generated character that moves in sync with the robot. Therefore, the user can physically interact with the virtual avatar via the robot.
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The Different Dimensions team is exploring potential applications for U-Tsu-Shi-O-Mi in the fields of education, training and video games. Though given Japan's extensive track record and appetite for pursuing the more lascivious side of robotic applications, it's no stretch of the imagination as to what dimension this tech with eventually explore.
After years in the making, the virtual humanoid will be up for pre-order in March. If you're interested, be prepared pony up between $4,800 and $5,300. Check out the original U-Tsu-Shi-O-Mi in action here.
Credit: Yokohama National University, Michihiko Shoji