New Scientist reports: [edited]
EYES in the back of your head - you know you want them. And soon you may get your wish, simply by slipping on a headset that gives you a 360-degree field of vision.
Called FlyVIZ, the system was designed by Jérôme Ardouin and colleagues at the Grande École d'Ingenieurs Paris-Laval in France. It captures images from every direction around the wearer, then transforms them into something our measly human vision system can comprehend.
The system is at prototype stage: at 1.6 kilograms, it's a bit heavy to walk around with, and remains connected to a laptop for image-processing while it runs. It uses a video camera, mounted atop a helmet, along with specially shaped mirrors to capture the environment on all sides of the user, then displays it in real time on a modified Sony Personal 3D Viewer headset.
The system takes about 15 minutes to get used to, its creators claim in a paper they presented at the Virtual Reality Software and Technology conference in Toronto, Canada, this week. Once acclimatised, the wearer is able to move around and interact fluidly with their environment.
In a series of trials, users grabbed sticks that would have been outside their normal field of view, dodged balls thrown from behind them, and even drove a car.
Despite the strange new perspective on the world, the device does not cause any nausea, motion sickness or visual fatigue, the team claims. And even though FlyVIZ acquires and displays images in 2D, wearers still had serviceable depth perception, which the researchers attribute to wearers intuitively tracking object motion and parallax in the image to compensate for a lack of normal binocular vision.
A streamlined version of the system could one day be useful for security guards, police, or fire fighters - or anyone with good reason to watch their backs.