Low-Tech Chair Enters the Matrix

This video demonstrates a really interesting experiment: sticking a Vive Tracker onto an ordinary chair in order to sync it up perfectly with its VR counterpart. The result? A chair that is visible in VR as a virtual object, but has a 1:1 physical world version occupying the same space. This means that unlike any other virtual object, this chair can be seen, touched, felt, moved, and actually sat in while the user is immersed in VR.

The purpose of this experiment seems to have been to virtually explore seating arrangements for real-world environments, and spawned a theatre planning tool by design studio [Agile Lens]. But we wonder if there’s unrealized potential in the idea of connecting physical objects that can be touched and held (or sat on) with their VR counterparts. Video demos of the chair test are embedded below.

The Vive Tracker is a self-contained wireless piece of hardware that opens some VR hacking doors. We recently saw one attached to a 3D printed spray can to allow virtual spray painting, and it’s really interesting to see the different directions people are going with it.

37 thoughts on “Low-Tech Chair Enters the Matrix

  1. Well, looks useful, however, I’d worry about the completely easy to see potential consequences of mixing real and VR that will get handwaved away… and someone will call unforeseen when it actually happens…

    So, potential problems are, mistaking virtual objects for real, i.e. attempting to sit in chairs that aren’t there resulting in injury. Mistaking real objects for wholly virtual ones, i.e. throwing a real chair in dangerous manner.

    I guess mitigation is partly whether the environment is a “tool” or a fantasy/game environment, but user could be forgetful about which mode they are in.

    1. Plus of course enabling a whole raft of bad sci-fi or near future crime shows where victim appears to have committed suicide, but a cracker had inserted and planted a derringer as an ear thermometer or something in a virtual world.

        1. Uh yeah you CAN but shouldn’t. The designers should identify real world objects. User generated objects would want some limitations built into the room manager to prevent accidental mix ups.

    2. Eh, I’m not against your arguments, but your examples of issues have some clarifications that need to be made. Picking up a virtual chair is a hell of a lot easier than a virtual one, and I’m sure the player will immediately realize this. If the player has a virtual prop line a bat or some other hand held representation of an in game object could be a problem. During sitting, as in real life, most people grab or touch the chair so they are aware of their orientation to it. I don’t blindly sit because as all kids have been teased, I was as well and the chair has been pulled out from under me enough to develop a paranoid check.

      1. The chair is representative of any object that this can be done to, and some lighter chairs or objects might not “feel” as heavy as some force feedback enabled pure virtual ones will feel. Now if you’re also only feeling it on the other side of a glove, you will not have small textural differences to guide you either.

        Yes there’s gonna be a bunch of heroes claim they can tell a real chair 99.9999 times out of 100, just like all those people who think they can text while driving and not crash.

        1. If your haptic feedback is so good that you can’t tell it’s not a real chair, the system will be able to detect the additional load and use it’s actuators to prevent the chair from being thrown or swung about.

          1. I don’t say you’d never be able to tell it’s not a real chair, with frigging superb haptic feedback you might be checking it out, swinging it from hand to hand a minute, and then consciously decide it’s a real chair or a virtual chair, bearing in mind chair represents any manipulable object and not only a chair and I don’t care if you’re too freaking weak to throw a chair that’s not the point. Anyway, the opportunity for error comes in those single second judgements, the failure of the human brain to track location of many objects as real or virtual and forget which is which, the brief grab, the transient feeling you’ve touched something real, then turning out not to have.

          2. @RW ver 0.0.1

            The failure your describing, a human failing to distinguish virtual from real. Is exactly what I’m saying the simulation engine should be designed to detect and prevent. In the case of a tracked prop like the chair, it could flash a warning in the case of unsafe behavior or switch to an actual view of reality. If it has actuators it could hobble the wayward persons attempt to throw it.

          3. Could, but I think actuators that can give you a sense of realness can still be too weak to inhibit a full force motion. For example when you feel how heavy a rock is before you throw it, you toss it lightly in your hand, then when you actually throw it, you use exponentially higher force.

    3. It just needs an agreed upon marker for objects that are there IRL so there is never confusion.
      And then it’s pretty ideal, even the ability to rest in a chair without leaving the environment is a good enough feature.

  2. I thought of using this for your desktop accessories, keyboard, mouse, joystick other hardware you need to get hold of in VR. Just need a model of the keyboard you are using. Mouse is pretty generic and easy to use once you have hold of it. Elite dangerous joystick seems to modelled on the Saitek already just needs a sticker :)

      1. Don’t get cocky kid. :P

        Sounds like some serious fun. I better go over to the Star Citizen forums and add to the feature creep >:D
        On a more realistic note, I would love to see this patched into Vega Strike or maybe a classic like Star Wars: Alliance

  3. now add an omni-treadmill and some method for ultra-fast 3d printing that can continuously build/recycle physical analogues of the objects in the virtual environment and you could feasibly make a limitless virtual universe. heavy emphasis on the ‘feasibly’

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