This Boxing Robot Punches You While You Play VR


Because every immersive experience is better with consequences.

When it comes to interactive entertainment, nothing immerses users in an experience better than providing consequences to their actions; whether it be feeling a controller vibrate after firing an in-game weapon or providing multiple dialogue options that result in a branching narrative.

In the world of VR, these moments are even more important for developing an engaging immersive experience. Toy designer turned YouTube maker and general robotics, electrical and mechanical engineer James Bruton shares a similar sentiment, which is why he built a mechanical boxing robot powered by a futuristic gladiator VR game.

In a video posted to Bruton’s personal YouTube channel entitled “Robot vs Human Combat,” Bruton dives into the specifics behind his incredibly intimidating robot combatant.

“I worked on this project with final year degree students in Computer Games Technology at Portsmouth University CCI faculty,” explains Bruton. “The robot hardware is controlled over a serial interface, the team built a VR game which controls the robot, so when you get hit in VR you get hit in real life! The robot is tracked back into VR with Vive trackers so it stays in sync.”

Image Credit: James Bruton

Powered by the Arduino Mega 2560 microcontroller board, the robot—which looks sort of like an earlier, more violent model of Borderland’s Claptrap—can tilt left or right and strike from a variety of angles thanks to dual bike pumps powering its two massive arms. In a vain attempt at creating a safe environment for the player, both fists have been covered with standard boxing gloves.

The VR experience—powered by the HTC Vive—has the user battling their mechanical foe using a physical shield and bat, both of which outfitted with Vive Trackers in order to mirror the positions of their VR counterparts.

Image Credit: James Bruton

Each arm of the robot also features a Vive Tracker, so every time the virtual robot strikes the player in-game, the real robot mirrors its actions and strikes the player from the same position at the exact same time; the robot tracks the player’s position via a sensor mounted to the front of the headset.

Obviously, the potential use-case scenarios for such a project are virtually limitless. Whether it be more realistic training simulations for combat personnel or more immersive VR gaming experiences, there’s definitely a future for robotics within the immersive industry; at least until someone gets decked right in the headset and the robot revolution begins.





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