Jan. 27 - A prototype gaming system being developed by scientists in Austria is taking virtual reality to a new level, allowing gamers to physically walk or run through their virtual world. Its inventors at the Vienna University of Technology say 'The Virtualizer' could also be used to help stroke patients regain their ability to walk. Jim Drury reports.
Tuncay Cakmak steps into the Virtualizer. The PhD student says his device takes virtual reality gaming to a new level of sophistication. It consists of a small circular metal frame, belts linked to vertical columns, and a disc-shaped low-friction floor plate. Once he's put on his Occulus Rift headset and console controller, and switched on the game, Tuncay is ready to run..... UPSOT: RUNNING ON PLATE SOUNDBITE (English) TUNCAY CAKMAK, STUDENT AT TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF VIENNA, AND CO-INVENTOR OF VIRTUALIZER, WALKING ON BASE PLATE, AND SAYING: "It's like learning a new controller and you totally forget you are in the device, so the brain, the most important thing for us from the cyber Rift is that the brain decouples from reality, the brain shall think where am I in the virtual world is real." The floor plate's low-friction allows users wearing regular socks to run and walk in any direction, jump or squat, without causing the motion sickness often associated with other virtual reality games. Sensors track their movement, sending signals to the PC. SOUNDBITE (English) TUNCAY CAKMAK, STUDENT AT TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF VIENNA, AND CO-INVENTOR OF VIRTUALIZER, SAYING: "The PC thinks that the Virtualizer is like a keyboard or a gamepad, like a controller. So you can use the Virtualizer with every game that exists, that you can play with on keyboard or gamepad and that's why we don't need a special software for the Virtualizer." The Virtualizer works with a variety of existing headsets... And the technology is not limited to gaming, according to co-inventor Dr Hannes Kaufmann. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR HANNES KAUFMAN, CO-INVENTOR OF VIRTUALIZER, SAYING: "You can do virtual sightseeing, you can explore wonderful new worlds and it's also great, for example, for medical purposes, for rehabilitation, you can train walking again for people after an accident, for stroke patients, it's a motivating way of walking through imaginative worlds." And the pair hopes to have their system commercially available later this year. They want to make it as ubiquitous in the home as a television or computer.....putting a spring in the step of anyone who uses it.