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Virtual reality umbrella shares vibe of guerrilla rain, frog falls and more

This week’s Digital Content Expo at Miraikan is one of the less corporate tech shows on the Tokyo calendar, so it’s no surprise to see some pretty kooky engineering like the Funbrella from a grad-student team at Osaka University.

Kansai’s finest came up with the concept of ‘tele-rain’ to allow anyone holding the Funbrella to experience what it might be like to get caught in a hailstorm on a sunny day, a shower of marbles, or even a downpour of snakes and hamburgers. Er, yeah.

If that makes no sense at all, then check out their vid for an explanation – skip to 1min 40secs in if you just want the hardcore science. Basically, they’ve connected a computer and a vibrating mechanism based on audio speaker technology to an ordinary umbrella and let their imaginations run riot.

I asked Associate Professor Yuichi Itoh what started it all: “The main theme of our laboratory is to develop novel user interfaces with virtual reality technology. So, our students decided to create something new with the technologies researched in our laboratory.”

But why the umbrella theme? “At that time, we had lots of so-called [sudden downpours of] guerrilla rain [in other parts of Japan]. The TV news spoke of its impact on our daily lives, but we had never experienced it, [so] we decided to develop the Funbrella to experience various kinds of rain, with the technology generating accurate vibrations.”

More romantically, the team suggests it could help folk separated by physical distance share the feeling of gutsing out the same storm together, perhaps while talking on the phone.

As for commercial applications, there aren’t really any yet, but Itoh and his crew are all ears if you have any suggestions for the Funbrella.

(Via Osaka University)

PS Itoh-san – glad to see you fixed that address wink

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09:54 PM JMLH • Permalink
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