In a virtual reality environment, visual and audio feedback are a given, and you’ll likely get some sort of vibration on your controllers as well. As impressive as that is, actually feeling an impact of, say, an opponent’s blow might not be that believable. To solve this (without being too painful) James Bruton has built an actual IRL boxing robot. When combined with a virtual reality arena environment designed by students at Portsmouth University’s Computer Games Technology program, it appears to take realism to a whole new level.
The project starts out with Bruton constructing a base for the robot out of wood, along with a piece of square tubing to form the torso, and a shoulder section that rotates vertically on a bearing. The robot is able to move around the real/VR environment with a pair of wheelchair motors, using encoders for feedback, and shoulders rotate up and down via a windshield wiper motor with a potentiometer to read the position. Merged with pneumatic actuator fist assemblies means that it can throw a variety of punishing blows. To keep it from seriously hurting participants and/or VR equipment, boxing gloves are, however, added to their ends.
The robot itself is controlled by an Arduino Mega board, which is linked up with a VR environment running the Unreal 4 engine. Humans are given a shield and sword to battle with the bot, and it looks like a lot of fun when immersed in their VR human-on-robot gladiatorial arena!