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Experiencing ­nderwater Worlds, Virtually

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A user in the Amphibian SCUBA diving simulator.

A team in the Living Mobile Group of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had developed a virtual reality scuba-diving simulator.

Credit: James Day

Dhruv Jain, a master of science candidate in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab's Living Mobile Group, has led the creation of a scuba-diving simulator as part of his Amphibian virtual reality (VR) project.

Most scuba-diving simulations in VR are limited to visual and aural displays, but Amphibian advances the field by engaging additional sensory modalities such as a sense of temperature, balance, and spatial orientation and movement.

Jain's system includes a motion platform, an Oculus Rift head-mounted display, a snorkel with sensors, leg-motion sensors, and gloves that enable motion detection, temperature simulation, and physical feedback from objects. Sensor data is fed into a processing unit that converts the users' physical movements on the motion platform into virtual movement in the Oculus app.

Jain, a diver who is partially deaf, likens the liberating effects of disabilities to the experience of being underwater.

The project's researchers say the system has the potential to offer a high degree of "presence" in VR. "Being underwater is so freeing, I thought through diving I could make people better understand the effect of disabilities," Jain says.

The research team's paper was accepted by the ACM CHI 2016 conference, which takes place May 7-12 in San Jose, CA.

From MIT News
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