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The Problem Of Simulating Weightlessness


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#1 NotBrad

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 01:00 AM

Moderation note: The first 4 posts of this thread are responses to this post in the “An Organized Look At Creating Nerve Gear” thread. They were moved to this new thread because they focus on a different subject than the original thread’s.

Hate to just drop a random post here, but the technology for tricking a VR user into feeling a free fall has already been experimented with. There was a pair of headphones at CES in either 2016 or 2015 that had the capacity to stimulate a response. It was by no means perfect yet but it could be refined.

#2 CraigD

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 07:23 AM

Hate to just drop a random post here, but the technology for tricking a VR user into feeling a free fall has already been experimented with. There was a pair of headphones at CES in either 2016 or 2015 that had the capacity to stimulate a response. It was by no means perfect yet but it could be refined.

Are you sure about the existence of these weightlessness-simulating headphones, NotBrad? Can you find a link to something documenting them?

Simulating a sort of perception of falling has been done for a very long time – there was a 360 degree standing movie theater in the 1967 Expo, “Canada 67” that did it so dramatically it had to have railings for people to grip to keep from staggering and falling, and I’m sure many regular screen movies did similar tricks long before. But actually producing the feeling of weightlessness one experiences in an orbiting spacecraft, which occurs even if your eyes are close and you are hearing nothing, seems to me beyond the ability of any present day VR system.

To produce this sensation, you must fool a complicated system of nerves that integrate signals from nerves from the entire body. Doing this convincingly seems to me like it would be very difficult.

PS: Thinking about your mention of CES 2015 and 2016, it occurred to me you may be thinking of the game ADR1FT, which was shown there, and is now available on PC and Playstation4. Though an amazing piece of game software made to be played with a VR headset that give the visual experience of floating in space, it doesn’t make you feel like you are weightless – you still feel like you are standing or sitting as you play it.

#3 xTcHero

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 02:13 PM

Are you sure about the existence of these weightlessness-simulating headphones, NotBrad? Can you find a link to something documenting them?
 

 

I think he's referring to Samsung's VR headphones: http://www.theverge....nt-vr-inner-ear


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#4 BrainJackers

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 09:10 PM

This is a bit out there yet it might be relevant. Certain audio tones can trigger emotions. An interesting article about this usage within the movie industry can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/0/24083243 One movie actually caused crowds to leave the theaters due to the extremity of the effect used.

 

Sound has also been demonstrated to directly stimulate neurons. An article about that can be found here: http://neurosciencen...e-neurons-2640/ That isn't possible in humans without injections (as stated in the article), yet that may possible be used to make you feel weightless.

 

--@Kayaba



#5 CraigD

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 02:03 AM

I think he's referring to Samsung's VR headphones: http://www.theverge....nt-vr-inner-ear

Wow, a possibly-to-be-consumer galvanic vestibular stimulation device!

I remember seeing these devices some years ago, described as a “remote control for humans” because they can be used to steer blindfolded, walking people like remote control cars. They’re very easy to make (the first dating back to ca 1800), requiring no complicated electronics, just a simple DC voltage applied to the mastoids, one polarity inducing a feeling of leaning right, the other, of leaning left.

What Samsung is up to with their Etrim 3D headset is synchronizing this voltage with movement in a VR simulation. I don’t think it can be used to simulate the experience of being in zero gravity – there are too many other sensory inputs, primarily the musculoskeletal nervous system sensing the lack of weight in the limbs – but, as the article points out, it can be used to avoid the disagreement between the eyes perception of movement and the vestibular (inner ear) system’s, which is the primary cause of VR motion sickness – what VR developers in the 1990s and early 2000s called “the ralph factor”.

The tendency for present day VR systems to make many users puke will, I think, significantly limit their popularity and adoption. If GVS can effectively cure this tendency, it could be the breakthrough technology improvement that ushers VR into widespread acceptance and popularity, allowing it to truly be the next big, transforming technology, causing our big, flat 2-D screens to give way to VR headsets, fundamentally transforming TV and video games.

 

Sound has also been demonstrated to directly stimulate neurons. An article about that can be found here: http://neurosciencen...e-neurons-2640/

This is also a very cool technology – thanks for bring it to the thread. :thumbs_up

The article calls it “sonogenetics”, a comparison to optogenetics, where genetically altered nerve cells are stimulated and or read using light.
 

That isn't possible in humans without injections (as stated in the article) ...

Sonogenetics hasn’t yet been done in anything more complicated than a tiny C. elegans worm. I couldn’t tell from Ibsen et al’s Nature article how they actually altered these worms genes to add the TRP-4 subunit to neurons that don’t normally have it, allowing them to stimulated with ultrasound, but since the genome and nervous system of C. elegans has been completely mapped, I guess they simply altered its DNA, then inserted it in a fertilized egg in a female worm, resulting in the birth of worms with the desired genes. Done in a living mouse or human, I imagine they’d use the technique used in optogenetics, inserting the new genes in just the desired nerve cells by injecting a virus containing the altered genes into the tissue near the cells, which, in a few weeks, infects and inserts itself and its genetic payload into those cells.
 

... yet that may possible be used to make you feel weightless.

For the reasons I note above, I think simulating the feeling of weightlessness that an astronaut feels in space will be difficult, because the system will need to replace the signals from practically every musculoskeletal nerve in the body, a huge number of nerves, which I think would require a true, high-resolution brain interface. I suspect a huge number of physical electrodes will be needed to do this – the “nanofiber” scheme I described here -, but the possible alternative of genetically altering nerves to make them “touchable” by indirect means, such as ultrasound, seems promising.

#6 BrainJackers

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 08:12 PM

The task is enormous and will be hard to do, no matter the device, The main issue with sonogenetics (in my opinion) is it doesn't block any stimuli, just provides. There would be ways around this but it does make things harder.

 

I have read about your nanofiber idea and it is quite interesting. If you don't mind a quick tangent, for a full system capable of simulating a second world (with graphics comparable to Skyrim or the Witcher 2), how thick do you think the bundle would be?

 

--@Kayaba


Edited by BrainJackers, 16 January 2017 - 08:31 PM.


#7 CraigD

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Posted 17 January 2017 - 07:35 AM

I have read about your nanofiber idea and it is quite interesting. If you don't mind a quick tangent, for a full system capable of simulating a second world (with graphics comparable to Skyrim or the Witcher 2), how thick do you think the bundle would be?

Taking, as I did here, the number of fibers needed as 100,000,000, and the diameter of a fiber as 0.000001 m, all the fibers together in a single bundle would be about .0001 m thick, about the thickness of an average human head hair.

I imagine all the fibers would not ever be bundled together, but spread fairly evenly over the area of the user’s head, entering not through a relatively large hole in a blood vessel as is done with some kinds of endoscopic surgery now, but undetectably between skin, flesh, bone and brain cells.

There are a lot of guess here, from the number of fibers needed to effectively “wire” the brain (which has about 30,000,000,000 individual neurons, 30,000 times more than the number of fibers in my guess) to whether self-mobile, multi-purpose fibers like I’m imagining are physically possible (that is, by virtue of being long and connected to larger machines, avoids the fundamental problems with nanotechnology raised in the Drexler-Smalley debate), to whether the position sensing systems and centralized control systems I imagine are possible. Until some of these fundamental assumptions are proven in concept, I won’t be very confident such a system is possible. I am confident that such proof of concept will take a lot of study and work.