Virtual reality booth brings history to life
You might never look at history the same way again.
Ottawa tech company, SimWave Consulting, has built a prototype of a virtual reality booth it hopes to install in museums around the country. The booth is designed to immerse the viewer in a historical scene.
At present, the V.R. booth plays a simulation of a trench battle at Vimy Ridge. The programmers chose that scene because this year marks the 100th anniversary of the historic battle.
The booth combines an Occulus Rift virtual reality system with motion-capture technology, an air pressure system, and a floating floor to create the sights, sounds, and sensations of the scene.
Jets of air feel like bullets and shrapnel whizzing by. Low-frequency transducers in the floor make your body vibrate every time a bomb goes off. Every turn of the head causes the scene, and the sound, to turn accordingly. “You think you’re in Vimy Ridge,” says Adam Caithness, CFO of SimWave. “You think you’re in no-man’s land.”
A future version will even include the heat from nearby explosions.
The end result is much more immersive than 3D on its own. The creators are calling it 4D. “Because 3D is what everyone knows, 3D video games. But 4D is where you start getting the environmental effects,” says Caithness.
SimWave is a spin-off of a company that designs simulations for the military. They hope to use the technology to bring history to life. They are shopping the invention around to museums and hoping to get funding to have 50 in place across the country by 2017, Canada’s 150th birthday. The program will include a historic scene from each province.
“And then after 2017 the museums will have this hardware. If they want custom stuff for what their museum is focused on then that’s the plan,” says Caithness.
SimWave sees other applications down the road, including therapy. They envision using the simulators to help people suffering from PTSD and other disorders.