How would you describe what scuba diving feels like to a disabled person, who’s not physically capable of doing it? Through VR, of course!
Here’s a neat story of the Amphibian Scuba Diving Simulator, a research project by Dhruv Jain of MIT Media Lab that let users experience diving underwater through virtual reality:
Most existing SCUBA diving simulations in virtual reality (VR) are limited to visual and aural displays. Amphibian advances the field of VR by engaging additional sensory modalities like thermoception (sense of temperature), equilibrioception (sense of balance), and proprioception (sense of spatial orientation and movement). Users lie on their torsos on a motion platform with outstretched arms and legs placed in a suspended harness.
An Oculus Rift head-mounted display and headphones allow them to see and hear the underwater environment. Various sensors are used to simulate buoyancy, drag, and temperature during the simulation. For example, Peltier modules attached to participants’ wrists through motion tracking gloves simulate temperature changes as they dive deeper into the water.
An inflatable airbag placed under the torso allows the user to control ascent or descent through breathing; inhaling makes the airbag inflate and exhaling makes it deflate. The virtual body rises up and down in sync. This is done using a gas sensor attached to a snorkel that measures the amount of air inhaled or exhaled.