We are a group of four students the the University of Maine studying Mechanical Engineering Technology. We currently have undertaken a project with the UMaine VEMI lab to incorporate the sense of touch into virtual reality. We aim to do this through creating an actuated floor which can simulate the rigidity of different terrains such as mud, snow, a rocky surface, or a simple flat floor when needed.
You may have seen the VR goggles online (or perhaps even used them) that let you visualize being in a different place or playing hands on games with them. We want to take that idea to the next level. Imagine being immersed into a virtual reality simulation of a beach and as you take a step, your foot sinks into the floor as if you were standing on sand!
Our current idea of going about this is by creating a reactive floor platform with a layer of individual air bladders with hexagonal tiles on top of the bladders that form the floor. At a zero-energy state, the floor will feel completely flat, but with the use of the air bladders, we will raise up the floor and create non uniform terrains!
We are currently designing an electric control system comprised of 40 different controlled air bladders that will inflate and deflate as needed to create the sensations of the floor. Depending on our funding level, we will explore even further ideas such as vibration addition and whatever we can think of!
We are currently hoping to raise around $1,500 to complete our task and are ready to begin the engineering as soon as possible!
Follow our progress on our website!
Risks and challenges
We are facing a few challenges currently.
The number one challenge is obviously funding as the quantities of the hardware items we need add up to a great cost.
We are really excited about this project because it will challenge us to explore many different outlets in the mechanical engineering field.
For the hardware of the floor itself, we will research the construction and applications of composite materials such as infused carbon fiber and seek a flexible, yet elastic material to connect the floor tiles together to form a "net" like structure.
Beyond funding, our most advanced challenge will be learning and understanding how to code and control the air system. For instance, if we find the the floor needs to be inflated to and regulated at 3psi, we will need our system to reach that pressure and then vent and add air to continually hold that pressure as someone walks around on the floor. This will be a great challenge for us as we don't have a vast amount of experience in that area, but we are excited to learn as much as we can!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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