When people think about virtual reality (VR), they usually envision stepping into entirely new worlds with the technology. What fans often forget, however, is that the head-tracking technology found in head-mounted displays (HMDs) such as the Oculus Rift can be applied to a wide range of uses. It may be that developers use head-tracking to offer a unique form of control within a VR videogame. In the case of Dexterous Observational Roving Automaton (DORA), it’s used to make a machine accurately and efficiently mimic the movements of real humans.
Created by a team of mechanical engineers at the University of Pennsylvania, including Emre Tan?rgan, Daleroy Sibanda, Peter Zachares and John Nappo, DORA is a new type of telepresence robot that connects with the second development kit (DK2) for the Oculus Rift. The robot is capable of mimicking all six degrees of movement allowed for with the DK2, which itself added positional tracking to the VR experience for the first time. DORA provides visual feedback for the HMD user with two cameras mounted to its head, effectively allowing users to assume the role of the robot itself. Audio feedback is also given.
The robot is completely untethered from the user, meaning that they can operate it from anywhere in the world provided that they have an Oculus Rift. The potential uses for such a device are obvious; perhaps checking in at home when on a trip halfway around the world or allowing a better view in live streams of events and more. Support for other HMDs hasn’t been announced at this time, although the increased capabilities of the user tracking seen in the HTC Vive could lead to even more exciting possibilities.
DORA’s creators are currently competing in the finals of the Intel-Cornell Cup in Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. VRFocus will continue to follow the project closely, reporting back with any further updates on it.
UPDATE: The DORA team has been in touch with VRFocus to explain that the project is currently controlled via radio communication, thus does not yet support control from anywhere around the world. This is simply a potential future addition if the project is carried further. VRFocus apologies for the confusion.