Technologies that have been considered to be unfeasible are soon to be commercialized by a Korean research team.
A research team from the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) announced on June 16 that they successfully developed a tech for an electromyography (EMG) sensor capable of predicting a user's movement using signals from muscles, along with a glass-type virtual reality display that can connect the real and virtual worlds.
The EMG sensor can recognize the movement pattern of hands and fingers beforehand by wearing a band-like sensor on the arm.
“Muscles in the human body contract before the movement of the body. Electric signals occur at that time, which are EMG signals,” explained Dr. Kim Ki-hoon, who developed the technology at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST). He added, “The new technology can predict people's movement by catching EMG signals, which occur 30/1,000th second before the actual movement.”
The band-type sensor that can capture electric signals coming from muscle contraction can predict a user's movement using an “intention recognition algorithm” that recognizes the corresponding gesture when certain muscles move.
Compared to the existing method that mimics movement after watching it, the new technique that mimics movement through this prediction makes it possible for the mimicry to follow rapid movements like running, since it can reduce the difference in time between movement and mimicry.
In particular, it is possible to know the strength of power, and thus specific movements like grasping an egg or glass cup can be followed. Therefore, human beings might mimic the original inhabitants of an alien planet someday, as depicted in the movie Avatar. It will also be possible to operate exoskeleton robots that appear in the movie Iron Man.
Dr. Kim thinks that the technology could be used in exercise programs like health training or rehabilitation and the remote control of intelligent robots, in addition to games and virtual reality programs.
He also believes that the tech will pave the way for a gesture-based computer interaction techniques that can move, open, or delete computer files in the air by hand, as depicted in the movie Minority Report.
Dr. Park Ji-hyung at KIST, on the other hand, developed a portable and wearable glasses-type display. Existing head-mounted displays are big and heavy, but the most notable characteristic of the new type is its small size and lightness. Hence, people can wear the glasses-type display like eye glasses.
The Oculus Rift or Sony's Morpheus virtual reality headset weighs 400 to 450g with a 6-cm protrusion from the face. The glass-type device weighs only 60g with 3 cm sticking out. It has 90 to 100 degrees of viewing angle, similar or slightly narrower than existing products. The new device is half the price of head-mounted displays.
In addition, the glass-type display can realize the video see-through method in which it is possible to alternately see the real world and images of virtual reality. Dr. Park explained that when watching movies or playing games, people will be able to experience highly-immersive virtual reality by wearing the device.
The research team is scheduled to set up a company and release these products during the latter half of this year. Prototypes will be available at this year's Culture-Tech Fair to be held at Kbiz DMC Tower in Seoul on July 9 to 10.