Bionic Me Jetpack

In late 2016 AVRL developed a jetpack simulator for the Scitech “Bionic Me” exhibition. The exhibit’s theme is how technology can be used to enhance humans and enable them to perform tasks they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. Using virtual reality, AVRL’s jetpack simulator lets attendees fly around a large city, packed full of tall sky scrapers, bridges, roads, cars and airplanes.

During development, AVRL worked closely with the Scitech designers and engineers who built the jetpack enclosures. The look of our virtual 3d models had to mirror the real world jetpack to increase the sense of immersion. Industrial joysticks were installed for controls. Their movement in the real-world had to map exactly to their movement in the virtual world so a user looking at his or her (virtual) hands, saw exactly what they’d expect to see. When in-seat speakers were introduced, we added low-frequency sounds to generate rumbling vibrations when thrusters fired and collisions occurred. There were constant links like these between the hardware and software development processes.

Unique challenges and considerations also provided both AVRL and Scitech with valuable experience. The robustness, flexibility, durability and travel-ability of such a public VR exhibit had to be evaluated. Various VR hardware configurations were trial-ed and environmental and safety factors had to be considered.

The Bionic Me Jetpack has been running at Scitech since the launch of the exhibition in November 2016. Feedback from visitors and Scitech staff has been positive and we continue to refine the experience in response to observations. The Jetpack may travel to other venue locations in 2017/2018.