Combining VR Fighting with Real Robot as Opponent
Nowadays, you can play the VR fighting or martial art games in virtual reality where you can play it alone by yourself. Unfortunately, playing alone does not make it feel real because you don’t feel the impact on your body or face. The most that you can get is the vibration on your controllers or perhaps the body pad with stimulator. But, imagine one day if you can feel the real punches and kicks on your body while having martial art tournament in VR. Well, the day is coming guys 🙂
Recently on 14th May 2019, James Bruton announced his work together with University of Portsmouth student where they create a VR fighting environment complete with a real robot. The robot will react by fighting you too by mimicking the action of your opponents in the game. At this moment, it is only limited to the punching action. Perhaps, the kicking part is save for the future release 🙂
Who is James Bruton anyway? Well, he is a robotics engineer from Southampton, UK and he is also the Creative Director of the XRobots. Besides, he is also a Youtuber of the XRobots Youtube Channel. It is worth to mention that XRobots is his personal project website. He registered the “XRobots.co.uk” domain in 2004 to display updates on his ongoing projects. Super cool dude. You can read more about him here.
For this project, he worked closely with the Computer Games Technology student from the university mention previously and they are the Final Year Degree students. They are Michael, George, Stephen and Boyan. Michael is focusing on the coding & VR hardware stuff while George looks into the environment art. And both Stephen and Boyan work on the character design & animation. In terms of the headset, the team is using HTC Vive while the VR environment is created by using the Unreal 4 engine.
Technology Behind VR Fighting…
For this project, James Bruton built a robot that can be controlled using serial commands or interface. James used the woods as the base of the robot. The robot is mounted on the wooden CNC base. There are three wheels at the bottom of the robot. Two of them are from the wheel chair and one looks like it came from a trolley. The wheels can provide some movement to the robot for some exact distance. Nice!
As for the upper part, James use two pneumatic cyclinders. Originally, the cylinder comes from the foot pump. To make the shoulders of the robot move up and down, he used the wind shield wiper motor. It also use a car-size battery to power the robot where it is placed just above the wheels. To avoid unfortunate injury to you or surrounding, the robot wears some kind of boxing gloves. Well, at least some kind of protection. We don’t know what will happen when it get smarter, rite? 🙂
To sync the movement of the mechanical robot to the virtual opponent, the team use the HTC Vive tracker to perform it. The tracker will track the robot’s arm and also the user headset and bat. They used the Arduino Mega interface to control the robot. Arduino Mega is a microcontroller board where this board is programmed in Arduino IDE software.
Below is the video showing the high level process from creating the robot, interfacing it with the system and its integration with the VR environment. A very cool 14-minutes video!!
If thinking about it, it seems similar like how Ip Man, the legendary martial artist, practised his Wing Chun kungfu with the wooden dummy during the good-old days. It is because of the action and reaction involved during the practise.
Only this time, the setting is more complex and advanced. And sooner or later, we will be dealing with a smarter and intelligent version of ‘wooden human’. Perhaps one day we can see this kind of setup at the martial art places and dojo or being commonly installed at home.
For more info, you can visit:
1) “Robot vs Human Combat” from XRobots.
2) “This robot hits you in real life when you get hit in VR” from The Verge.
3) “James Bruton’s Boxing Robot VR Competition Into the Real World” from Hackster Blog.