What the world has long been waiting for, obviously, is the ability to go swimming without getting wet. No, not taking a dip in dry-cleaning fluid, but virtual-reality swimming. At the recent Siggraph convention in Los Angeles - an event devoted to cutting-edge computer simulation and general silliness - geeks from the University of British Columbia demonstrated a "new locomotion interface". According to the researchers, this consists of an eight-foot cubic wooden box frame, decked out with a system of pulleys, cords, straps and harnesses capable of suspending the victim - sorry, user - in a prone position. Sandbags at the ends of the cords provide pull at the shoulders, midriff and ankles to simulate buoyancy. Once strapped in place, the user's struggles are captured by motion sensors while a head-mounted display renders fake waves closing overhead as the user sinks like a stone to the rendered seabed, accompanied by the sounds of fish laughing. Or something. "Preliminary user testing suggests the system has great potential as a general purpose navigation system," the boffins state. "[It] could replace a positioning device, such as a mouse." Well, it could, but Sneak might need to clear a bit of space in the office first, if a four-inch mouse is truly to be supplanted by a room-sized bondage scaffold.
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