The full-body suit may be moved by electrical signals sent to it, or it may relay them to record how it is being moved by the wearer.
It may soon be possible to “feel” the metaverse.
Eight mechanical engineering students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zurich, are developing a tactile suit that covers the entire body to “superboost” immersive experiences in the metaverse.
The suit features multiple sensors and soft, human-like muscles, allowing for “a much more natural interaction with virtual reality”.
“The meta suit is basically a suit built with artificial muscles and it enables us to interact more with virtual reality,” said project lead Maximilian Eberlein from ETH Zurich.
“The main idea was to incorporate new artificial muscles called Hassel [hydraulically amplified self-healing electrostatic – actuators] in a suit that enables greater interaction with virtual reality,” Aberlein said.
Innovative technology has been vital to achieving the team’s goals. The artificial muscles feel similar to human muscles and send haptic feedback to the suit so that the wearer can ‘feel’ the virtual environment.
How does this work?
Like a zip-lock bag, the muscles contract and expand with a small electrical current.
“So you have pouches that are filled with a special fluid and you spray electrodes on them and you apply voltage to these electrodes so that these muscles connect together and that causes the muscles to contract,” Aberlein said. Explained.
The Meta suit can track and map humans’ movements without using any camera systems, a method known as “proprioception”.
Most VR devices currently use visual cues, which are expensive and don’t operate to their full potential in poor lighting, Aberlein said.
The students at ETH Zurich aim to tackle these limitations of current technology.
In a test, the team has created a virtual reality where the player can let a bird sit on their hand and feel it using contractile muscles on the suit.
“It’s amazing. Like, the first few attempts where we really tested our technique, we all had to laugh because it was such an amazing feeling, something I’ve never felt before. You’re in a completely different environment.” You can be on Mars and you feel something and it feels real,” Aberlein said.
Its inventors are convinced that the Meta Suite has potential use cases beyond VR, such as motion tracking systems for films and animations and to restart “frozen gait,” a symptom of Parkinson’s that requires a patient to walk. Hints are needed to help.