New VR system lets you share sights on the mo

New VR system lets you share sights on the mo

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image: A modified wheelchair unit recreates the acceleration of a Segway for a remote user, reducing the harm of virtual reality.
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Credit: Tokyo Metropolitan University

Tokyo, Japan – Researchers at Tokyo Metropolitan University have designed a virtual reality (VR) remote collaboration system that allows Segway riders to share not only what they see, but also the feeling of acceleration when they move. Cyclists equipped with cameras and accelerometers can transmit their sensations to a remote user on a modified wheelchair wearing a VR headset. User surveys have shown a significant reduction in VR sickness, promising a better experience for remote collaborative activities.

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Virtual reality (VR) technology is advancing rapidly, allowing users to experience and share an immersive 3D environment. In the field of remote work, one of the major advances it offers is the ability for workers in different locations to share what they see and hear in real time. One example is personal mobility device users in large warehouses, factories, and construction sites. Users can easily cover large areas while reporting issues in real time to a remote colleague. However, one major downside can ruin the whole experience: virtual reality disease. Virtual reality sickness is a type of motion sickness that results from users seeing “motion” through their headsets without actually moving. Symptoms include headache, nausea, and sometimes vomiting. The problem is particularly acute for the example above, when the person sharing the experience is moving.

To circumvent this problem, researchers at Tokyo Metropolitan University led by Assistant Professor Vibol Yem have created a system that allows users to share not only what they see, but also the sensation of movement. They focused on the Segway as a common and widely available personal mobility vehicle, installing two 3D cameras and a set of accelerometers to measure not just visual cues, but detailed vehicle acceleration information. This was sent back via the internet to a remote user wearing a VR headset on a modified wheelchair, with separate motors attached to the wheels. As the Segway user accelerated, so did the wheelchair, allowing distant users to not only see the same scenery, but also feel the same acceleration. Of course, the wheelchair was not allowed to cover the same distances as the Segway; it was gently returned to its original position when the Segway was not accelerating.

The team put their device to the test by having volunteers become remote users and rate their experience. There was a 54% reduction in VR sickness when motion sensations were added, with top marks for user experience. They also noticed intricacies in how information should be returned. For example, users have found it best that around 60% of the acceleration suggested by visual cues is returned to the wheels, largely due to the sensitivity of the vestibular system (how we perceive balance, orientation and movement) in relation to our vision.

While improvements are still needed, the team’s system promises exciting new possibilities for remote collaboration, freeing remote users from a major drawback of VR technology.

This work was supported by Tokyo Metropolitan University Local-5GProject, MIC/SCOPE # 191603003 and JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 18H04118.

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