Imagine experiencing all elements of a scuba diving trip from buoyancy to temperature without ever getting into the water. Say, what?
This scenario is what MIT Media Lab researchers Dhruv Jain and Misha Sra envisioned when they created the “Amphibian.” Keep reading to learn more!
Amphibian is a scuba diving simulator that goes well beyond the basics of virtual reality to provide a truly earth-shattering and complete underwater experience. The idea stemmed from Jain’s connection with disabilities and scuba diving.
Jain, who is a Master of Science candidate in the MIT Media Lab’s Living Mobile Group, is partially deaf, and he noted the underwater environment, where vital senses are dulled and distorted, can be a unique representation of the effects of disabilities.
He also noted the sense of peace he feels while under the surface is rejuvenating, emotional and almost spiritual. He said it was an experience he wanted to capture for people who, for one reason or another, would not be able to go under the water.
The way Amphibian works is deceivingly simple. You lie on a motion platform, with your arms and legs outstretched and suspended. You wear a headset and headphones that simulate the signs and sounds of the underwater environment.
But the complex system goes well beyond just hearing and sight. The goal of the Amphibian was always to incorporate more factors than a traditional virtual reality experience to create truly the total package. The developers added system designs to replicate the five different sensations divers count on while under the water namely hearing, sight, temperature, kinesthetic sense and balance.
As a result, while you are seeing and hearing the underwater environment, you’re also feeling the effects of buoyancy, drag and even temperature as the surrounding “waters” get colder and warmer.
The gloves you wear feature embedded flex centers that effectively track your hand’s movement through inertial measurement units (IMUs). Your leg movement is also tracked, and while suspended, you veritably “swim” through the air by kicking your legs up and down, and using your hands to navigate in various directions all without leaving the platform.
Another feature is the ability to reach out and “touch” the virtual world. With this two-way interaction, you can stretch out your hand to grab objects, such as rocks, crabs or other marine items. You can feel the weight and physical feedback in your hand. This unique experience is created through an inflatable pad that’s located on each glove that simulates the texture or shape of whatever object you picked up.
The makers of Amphibian submitted a research paper and the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems accepted it into their conference, which is held May 7-12 in San Jose, California. Several scientific blogs, magazines and papers have also picked up the fascinating story.
And while the everyday diver, can’t start using the Amphibian today, if the research catches on, chances are someday everyone will be able to experience the thrill of diving in and out of the water. You can read more about the Amphibian and see a video on MIT’s website.
If you need gear for your next “wet” dive trip, check out our gear section. If you live in the Dallas area, swing by our shop in Carrollton, and we’ll be happy to chat with you about our superior gear at discounted prices!
Any new diving technology you want to share? Let us know in the comments!
Image attribution: http://news.mit.edu/2016/experiencing-underwater-worlds-virtually-0411