Crazy XR devices that will blow away your mind – Episode 1

This morning I was browsing the web to do research for one of my next articles, and I found a picture of that Japanese headset that people could use only by lying on a bed. My mind so started thinking about all the crazy XR devices that I saw in the almost ten years that I’ve been in the XR space: some of them were totally nonsense, while others were genius; some became products, others were just research; some of them I managed to try, others I did not. But all of them left a spark of joy inside me because I totally love it when people try to push the boundaries of what is possible and think about the unthinkable.

So I thought it could have been cool to write a list of some of the craziest XR gadgets that I’ve discovered over the years, to honor all these fantastic inventors who wanted to try something different from the usual. I will describe these inventions with a bit of irony, but actually, in my heart, I’m a big fan of all of them.

And I’ve just got started: this is the first episode and others are coming. So if you can think of a crazy (in a good or bad sense) XR piece of hardware that should be mentioned, please contact me. I will select the best ones and add them to my next episodes!

Half-Dive headset

diver x half dive
Welcome to Sword Art Online (Image by Diver-X)

The Japanese startup Diver-X announced a few years ago a headset that you could use only by lying down in bed, dubbed Half-Dive. The headset also featured force feedback for the head, with wind effects for added realism. It should have also be paired with ankle and foot controllers to let you somewhat move in the VR world. Unluckily, the project, even if funded on Kickstarter, was canceled because of difficulties in manufacturing.

It’s a pity because it would have been great for por… ehm, for social VR. In fact this setup also let you have your hands free, which is good for… “social VR”.

You can read more about it on this page: https://www.roadtovr.com/sword-art-online-vr-halfdive-kickstarter/

Ekto VR

ekto vr review hands on
Me trying Ekto VR shoes at AWE US

Ekto VR is still one of my favorite hardware I have ever tried at a VR exhibition. It is a pair of motorized booths that you can use to walk in virtual reality: you walk naturally with your feet to walk in VR, and while you walk, the boots slowly move you backward, so that you keep walking in the same physical spot. These boots are very prototypical, so they are hard to set up, they are heavy (my legs became like the ones of a bodybuilder while using them), they are noisy, and I almost fell to death three times while using them. That’s why I totally loved them.

A short video showing me walking with them

You can read more about them in my fantastic review: https://skarredghost.com/2021/11/25/ekto-vr-hands-on-review/

Weightless VR

Weightless proposed itself as the ultimate system for locomotion in VR: you could wear a harness and attach it to your ceiling using some big elastic cables, so that you could launch yourself head-first in real life to fly in VR. If people now are punching their TV screens while playing Gorilla Tag, with this device they could literally go to the next level and enter with the whole head into the TV. Failure GIFs could really be next level with this gadget.

I guess this device was secretly sponsored by the lobby of the TV manufacturers, who imagined their sales to skyrocket because of this. It’s a pity it was not funded because with this device we could finally make reality the Matrix, especially the part where if you die in VR, you die in real life (with your head banging on the wall).

You can read more about it here: https://www.vrfitnessinsider.com/weightless-vr-wants-to-make-you-a-stuntman-in-your-living-room/

Digital Smell Interface

Nope nope nope

The sense of smell is one of our most ancient ones and it is deeply wired into our brain. That’s why it’s very important to be able to replicate it in VR. There are a few scent emulation devices out there (e.g. VAQSO) and they are all based on a simple concept: if you emit in the air some small scent particles, the user feels that scent.

However, a group of talented researchers from the Imagineering Institute decided to try an alternative road: ELECTRICITY. Instead of just spraying some perfume at you (which is for losers), they decided it could be more interesting to put a tube inside your nose and electrocute it. And I’m not even kidding

olfactory device electricity
Nope Nope Nope Nope Nope Nope (Image by Imagineering Institute)

In the picture above, you can see the comfortable setup of this device: apart from the BDSM mask on your eyes, you get an electrical wire in your nose. Once in, it starts electrically stimulating your nose, producing the sensation of scents. The good thing about this device is that also in case of failure, it is able to create a scent: the scent of frying nose meat.

I’ve never tried this device and honestly, I don’t know if I will ever have the courage to: I’m not a big fan of having electrical tubes entering into my holes. But if you tried it, please let me know the sensations that you felt, I’m very curious. And also tell me if you still have a nose.

A rare image of a tester of this device after a few usages (Image from a Warner Bros movie)

Jokes apart (there is no risk for health, I was just kidding), I really loved that this group of woman researchers tried a different approach for smell in VR and you can find more info about it here: https://imagineeringinstitute.org/digital-smell-interface/

Project Nourished

I’m still fascinated by it

After having talked about smell, let’s dive into the sense of taste, another sector where the technology is still at research status. One of the projects that surprised me the most over the years has been Project Nourished, which was an eating experience in virtual reality. Long story short, you had to wear a VR headset, and then you were provided some healthy small cubes made with algae to eat, while you could have a visual-olfactory experience that let you feel some special taste. Some scent emitters were tricking your nose into feeling a specific taste (remember that we basically feel tastes with our olfactory receptors), while for giving you the right consistency of food we had… yeah, again electricity. There was an electrical stimulation via bone conduction of the muscles of your jaw, so you could feel the proper softness of the food. It seems that people working with smell and taste have a fetish for electricity because many of them use it.

This is something I would have really liked to try, but I’ve never had the occasion. If it works, it can also be a great opportunity to make kids eat healthier: if they don’t want to eat broccoli, you can put a VR headset on their head, install a scent emitter, and electrocute their jaws to give them the sensation they are eating lasagna. And if they don’t want to eat, you can raise the voltage and electrocute them even more until they spontaneously love the idea of eating broccoli.

You can find more info about this project on this page: https://projectnourished.com/

Mojo Vision

mojo vision contact lenses eye test
Drew Perkins using Mojo Vision contact lenses (Image by Mojo Vision)

Mojo Vision has been for me one of the coolest startups around our space. While now it is focusing on Micro-LED manufacturing, it was previously aimed at producing augmented reality contact lenses. I always thought that AR lenses were something that could be possible only in 2050, but then in 2022, I got a picture of the CEO of Mojo Vision, Drew Perkins, with an AR contact lens in his eyes, and my mind got totally blown away. It has been the most cyberpunk thing I’ve ever seen happening outside of science fiction movies or comics. It’s a pity they pivoted, because Drew Perkins, after the first test, had still one eye remaining to do another test of the device. But now he has a new fantastic job as a pirate at Disneyland, so his story ends well. (I’m kidding, of course, the test ended well and Mr. Perkins still has two eyes!)

You can read more about Mojo Vision in some articles I wrote about it, like this one https://skarredghost.com/2022/03/30/mojo-vision-smart-contact-lenses-feature-complete/ or this other one https://skarredghost.com/2022/06/28/mojo-vision-contact-tested-eye/

3DHead

3dhead big big vr headset
This is the most iconic photo of Ben Lang, I think (Image by Road To VR)

The 3DHead, also known as “That big big headset” remains in the minds of all of us as one of the most iconic headsets ever brought to an exhibition. It was an HMD that was so huge because it didn’t use lenses, but it tried to put a 3D screen as far as possible to your face so that your eyes could focus on it in the most immersive way possible. Notwithstanding the absurdity of all of this, the founders were so convinced about the potential of this spaceship you had put your head in that they even defined it as the “Oculus killer”. Well, considering that Oculus has been killed and now it is “Meta”, I think that over the years this device did its job pretty well.

It was such a superior device. The funny thing is that it lists as a feature “No glasses required”, but it requires you to wear 300Kg of plastic on your head

This device didn’t take foot because the VR space is full of sissies that want to wear small and comfortable devices like Bigscreen Beyond, while true men wear big plastic boxes like 3DHead. I mean, even Bigscreen called itself “Big Screen” understanding the potential of this tech, but then betrayed us with those small glasses…

Everything was so nonsense that Road To VR’s Ben Lang trolled them with his famous three-word review. But you can still read more about it in an interview that Ben had with them at CES: https://www.roadtovr.com/3dhead-oculus-killer-interview-ces-2015-james-jacobs/

The Nosulus Rift

The nosulus rift vr crazy
You can smell this picture (Image by Ubisoft)

In 2016, Ubisoft decided to add more realism for people who wanted to try its experience of South Park, called “South Park: The Fractured But Whole”. To do that, it didn’t increase the resolution, or add haptics like all normal companies, but it decided to add an olfactory sensation to it. With the smell of Cartman’s farts. Yes, you’ve read it right, you could play the game and smell the anus of Cartman all the time. The device was so pleasant that Tom’s Hardware in its review wrote “This Thing Is Pure Evil”. I guess it was a shitty idea, or at least smelled like it. But let’s see the pleasant sides… at least this one was not electrocuting parts of your body.

I wonder what Ubisoft will invent next… maybe at this year’s Gamescom, it will present “the ultimate Kenny simulator” (Kenny dies in every episode of South Park, in case you don’t know)…

You can read Tom’s Hardware review about it here: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/nosulus-rift-gamesom-south-park,32552.html

The fall-from-a-cliff haptic simulator

This is one of the research projects I loved the most reading about. I have no better words to describe it than the ones I used when I talked about it in one of my weekly roundups of news, so let me copy-paste them:

Thanks to Ivan Aguilar, I got to know about a research project involving VR haptics, and it is one of that kind of crazy things that I usually love. The study is about the proper simulation of hand haptics for when in a game we are falling down a cliff and we are trying to stop the fall. The simulation consists of a specific Arduino-driven hardware and something that resembles a retractile knife to be used on that hardware. When you fall down the cliff in the VR simulator, you can so stick the real “knife” onto the Arduino machine, to simulate you trying to stick a knife into the rocks of the cliff when you are falling down.

Because this is what always happens in my life: when I fall down a cliff (which happens frequently) and I have a knife in my pocket (I always keep a knife in the pocket exactly for these moments), I can try to stick the knife in the rocks of the cliff to stop my fall. It’s basically the same physics realism that I saw in Looney Toones’ Cartoons when I was a kid. Makes total sense. A knife entering into rocks when you are accelerating fast because of gravity. Is this the “metaverse” everyone is talking about?

I can’t wait that this solution goes mainstream. I think this is the iPhone moment of VR. Or maybe the knife moment of VR.

Fur haptics in VR

furry vr haptics controllers
So cute! (Image from VR Scout)

Haptics research always gives us a lot of interesting crazy devices to look at. This one, called HairTouch, was meant to give you the sensation of touching hair or fur while in virtual reality. This way, for instance, you could emulate the petting of a cat in a realistic way in VR, all thanks to a little brush installed on the device.

I think this device has enormous potential: if they integrate it with VRChat, all furries would buy it immediately and the researchers may fund their research for the next 10 years. “Furry VR controllers” wasn’t in my predictions for VR in 2024, but maybe I should add it…

You can read more about this fantastic device on this page: https://vrscout.com/news/hairtouch-vr-pet-a-virtual-cat/


And that’s it for today’s journey in some of the most crazy and mind-blowing XR devices and setups. Don’t forget to give me some ideas for the next episode of this column, and also subscribe to my newsletter so as not to lose it when it is out! Stay hungry, stay crazy, my friends!

The post Crazy XR devices that will blow away your mind – Episode 1 appeared first on The Ghost Howls.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://skarredghost.com/2024/03/18/crazy-mindblowing-vr-xr-devices/