Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Visual Weight Lifting

PostedSeptember 29, 2013

Anchor Lede: You’re in an airplane exit row and asked whether you can remove the door if there’s an emergency. Most of us wouldn’t really know for sure. But soon a virtual reality tool might tell you…by simulating weight lifting.

Randy Atkins: Engineers are testing the concept in an immersive virtual reality environment at the University of Wisconsin, where people wear 3-D goggles over their eyes and electrodes on their arm muscles. Professor Rob Radwin then asks them to “lift” animated objects.

Rob Radwin: The muscle activity we record controls the simulation so that if you produce enough muscle contractions you can make the objects move.

Randy Atkins: Don’t try, though, and your hand goes right through the object…like you’re a ghost. Use too much muscle, and you might throw it through the virtual roof.

Rob Radwin: So we can have people perform exertions without putting them at risk of dropping objects or having a problem with lifting something that might hurt them.

Randy Atkins: With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.