VRChairRacer: Using the Office Chair as a Controller for Virtual Reality

Researchers from the Telecooperation Lab at the Technical University of Darmstadt presented a new way to interact with Virtual Reality Environments by having a regular office chair as an input device.

Virtual Reality enables immersive visual experiences; however, the interaction is often limited to hand-held controllers. To overcome these limitations, the researchers are using the tilting of the backrest and rotation of an office chair to control movements in Virtual Reality. The project will be presented in May at the leading conference on human-computer interaction, ACM CHI, in Glasgow (UK).

In existing Virtual Reality setups, the user can interact with the environment through controller-based input. However, such interaction is mostly limited to basic inputs, such as pressing a button or hand-based gestures. This can break the immersion of applications that want to recreate reality.

Researchers from the Telecooperation Lab in Darmstadt under the lead of Prof. Dr. Max Mühlhäuser suggested using movements of the user’s body as a new way to interact with Virtual Reality.

As an example, they created a VR racing game that uses a regular office-chair with the tilt of the backrest mapped to the acceleration. Depending on the angle of the backrest, the virtual race car accelerates or starts to break once the user leans forward.

Further, the chair’s rotation is mapped to the steering of the virtual racing car. The system is built using an off-the-shelf HTC Vive setup with no additional hardware where one of the controllers is attached to a regular office chair.

To appear: Julius von Willich, Dominik Schön, Sebastian Günther, Florian Müller, Max Mühlhäuser, and Markus Funk. 2019. VRChairRacer: Using an Office Chair Backrest as a Locomotion Technique for VR Racing Games. In CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Extended Abstracts (CHI’19 Extended Abstracts), May 4–9, 2019, Glasgow, Scotland UK. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 4 pages.

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