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Science!: VR and Sistine Chapel

Lauren Admire | 28 Jun 2010 21:00
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Virtusphere is Zorb 2.0

Think the PlayStation Move or Microsoft Kinect peripherals are neat? They've got nothing on the Virtusphere. The Virtusphere is a giant human-sized hamster ball of pure virtual reality goodness. Previously only used for military and police training, the Virtusphere was installed last May in the Excalibur hotel in Las Vegas for the general public to geek out about. While inside, casino-goers can experience a first-person shooter or tour history Russian architecture in full virtual reality.

The Virtusphere is about 100 square feet and close to 10 feet tall. The sphere rests on top of a platform with omni-directional wheels, which allows the sphere to rotate a full 360 degrees. Players can run, jump, and roll at their leisure, without having to worry about hitting a wall. If the player does happen to lose their footing, the Virtusphere is made of the same plastic as Legos, which will help to cushion the fall (I don't know how effective this cushioning is - Legos are still pretty painful to land on). Underneath the platform, a sensor tracks the player's movements as they move along the X and Y axis. The player wears a head-mounted display with two internal LCD screens and a bevy of gyroscopes, magnetometers and accelerometers; all of which provide constant data that allows the sphere to simulate how the player is moving in-game. It's currently compatible with a few popular 3D engines, including Quake 4 and Unreal 3, which means that integration with hit games such as DOOM and Gears of War could soon be playable in full VR.

The Virtusphere website offers a rich list of what the fancy oversized hamster ball could be used for. Feel like experiencing Rome in all of its ancient glory? Go for it. Hate running outside, but despise staring at a blank wall while on a treadmill? Jump into the sphere. Do you want to actually be Solid Snake in MGS? Do it.

No word yet on where else the Virtusphere will be popping up. The price page at the website simply says "For buying Virtusphere, please send us request," which I take as code to mean "you probably can't afford this, sucker." Still, I'd eventually like to get in one play some real-life Katamari Damacy. In a ball, while rolling a ball. So meta.

Source: Popular Science

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