To tackle "death anxiety" among terminally ill hospital patients, designer Frank Kolkman has created a device that simulates a near-death experience using virtual reality.
Visitors to Dutch Design Week were invited to try out the experimental device, which explores how new computer technologies can address psychological issues, such as fear of mortality.
The out-of-body experience simulated by Outrospectre could provide therapy for dying people, by gently acclimatising them to the sensation of death.
Kolkman's device relies on video footage of the real environment instead of computer-generated visuals.
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My role within this fascinating project was to create the software running Kolkman's excellent physical design. The installation consists of two camera's mounted in a head which has 3 degrees of freedom. The visitor of the installation is asked to wear a VR headset, my task was to get the positional data from the headset to the camera mount, and as the camera mount moved into the same orientation as the user's head, I had to transport the images of the camera's into the user's headset. Giving the illusion that the person was standing behind themselves.
I ended up getting the latency from the headset to the motors down to around 30ms, which was already pretty low, but the experience was also further strengthen by utilizing the positional warp function of the headset, which meant that if the user moved their head, the image would be re-projected by the computer before the updated imagery of the cameras arrived to the headset.