Underwater VR Offers Zero Gravity on a Budget

Someday Elon Musk might manage to pack enough of us lowly serfs into one of his super rockets that we can actually afford a ticket to space, but until then our options for experiencing weightlessness are pretty limited. Even if you’ll settle for a ride on one of the so-called “Vomit Comet” reduced-gravity planes, you’ll have to surrender a decent chunk of change, and as the name implies, potentially your lunch as well. Is there no recourse for the hacker that wants to get a taste of the astronaut experience without a NASA-sized budget?

Well, if you’re willing to get wet, [spiritplumber] might have the answer for you. Using a few 3D printed components he’s designed, it’s possible to use Google Cardboard compatible virtual reality software from the comfort of your own pool. With Cardboard providing the visuals and the water keeping you buoyant, the end result is something not entirely unlike weightlessly flying around virtual environments.

To construct his underwater VR headset, [spiritplumber] uses a number of off-the-shelf products. The main “Cardboard” headset itself is the common plastic style that you can probably find in the clearance section of whatever Big Box retailer is convenient for you, and the waterproof bag that holds the phone can be obtained cheaply online. You’ll also need a pair of swimmers goggles to keep water from rudely interrupting your wide-eyed wonderment. As for the custom printed parts, a frame keeps the waterproof bag from pressing against the screen while submerged, and a large spacer is required to get the phone at the appropriate distance from the operator’s eyes.

To put his creation to the test, [spiritplumber] loads up a VR rendition of NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, where astronauts experience a near-weightless environment underwater. All that’s left to complete the experience is a DIY scuba regulator so you can stay submerged. Though at that point we wouldn’t be surprised if a passerby confuses your DIY space simulator for an elaborate suicide attempt.

9 thoughts on “Underwater VR Offers Zero Gravity on a Budget

  1. There’s perfectly waterproof and almost waterproof.
    Now you’ve made something and are about to insert your precious phone.
    Which one will it be… let’s find out and take a dive.

    wow… it really works.
    This is a whole new experience.
    Jeeezzzz… that water looks just real… hey… why’s my screen going black?

  2. ” Is there no recourse for the hacker that wants to get a taste of the astronaut experience without a NASA-sized budget?”

    Ah, if only acoustic levitation worked on large bodies? :-p

  3. “Google Cardboard compatible virtual reality software from the comfort of your own pool. ”

    Look at Mr. Moneybags here with his own pool and stuff.

    “,,, the average cost of a 19′ diameter above ground swimming pool is $6,243; while the average cost of a 32’x16′ inground swimming pool is $21,919.” (https://www.fixr.com/costs/build-swimming-pool)

    “$4,950 + 5% tax. Weightless flight to include 15 parabolic maneuvers creating 20-30 seconds of weightlessness each. Includes ZERO-G merchandise, pre and post flight catering, professional photos of ZERO-G Experience®, video of weightless experience and certificate of weightless completion.” (https://www.gozerog.com/)

    Of course this is just being snarky – this is a great project and on a larger scale, environmentally sealed VR has a lot of great applications. I’m sure you could sweet talk the local municipal pool/YMCA into letting you float for a bit so long as you didn’t vaporize toddlers from your Kerbal galactic battlecruiser.

  4. The feeling of weightlessness comes from the removal of forces on your internal organs (including the middle ear). This is no more like weightlessness than lying on a squishy bed.

    1. Perhaps some anticholinergenics or what not, a few OTC meds or tropane patch behind the ear, Add a buddy who punches you in the stomach and you got yourself a genuine champagne jam!

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