Year of Graduation
Thesis (Senior Honors)
Virtual reality (VR) environments are most commonly used for entertainment and gaming, though are also employed in rehabilitative and professional contexts. Virtual reality systems currently have highly convincing visual and aural feedback, allowing for a superficially immersive experience for the user. However, these systems lack haptic feedback, breaking the immersive experience as soon as the user tries to interact with a virtual object or entity physically, which severely limits the uses of VR.
To solve this, instead of the conventional approach of trying to simulate feeling something that isn’t actually there, a physical robot was created to exist in real space, programmed such that its movements were identical to those of a virtual object. The user can then reach out and touch the robot, and feel that they are touching the virtual entity in the virtual world.
A version of this was created, which consists of a boxing dummy affixed to a motorized base. The robot was paired to a virtual Muay Thai fighter, such that any translation and rotation of the virtual entity was matched by the robotic base, and thereby the boxing dummy. The motion of the robot was tracked with an HTC Vive tracking puck, affixed within the base of the robot. The base was designed to withstand the impact equivalent of a professional roundhouse kick. The electronics housing is also contained within the base. The Virtual environment is hosted on an external main computer, which also has the VR operating system SteamVR installed. The motors of the robot are controlled by motor controllers, which themselves are controlled by a Raspberry Pi micro-controller, which communicates with the main computer over a local network created by the Raspberry Pi using socket connections.
The project was ultimately successful in achieving the desired result, namely that it followed the player at a distance of between 0.5 and 0.75 meters, as dictated by the code. It achieved speeds and accelerations similar to those of a boxer in a boxing match, and the base was able to withstand the impact of a Taekwondo roundhouse kick without tipping.
Fogt, Tristan G., "Pairing a Robot to a Virtual Entity to Provide Haptic Feedback in Virtual Reality" (2019). ENGS 88 Honors Thesis (AB Students). 5.
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