80s video game updated with Oculus Rift, Kinect

PaperDude VR combines modern technology to immerse gamers in Paperboy

What do you get when you combine an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, a Kinect motion tracking sensor, multiple computers and a video game from the 1980s? PaperDude VR, a project presented at the Computer Human Interaction conference in Toronto that combines a real bicycle and a virtual world where gamers gain points by delivering newspapers.

See PaperDude VR in a video on YouTube.

It's a take on the 1984 arcade game where players rode through a course on a bicycle and earned points delivering papers and avoiding obstacles. The research project has players don an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset while sitting on a bike. A Kinect sensor tracks players' upper bodies, generating a virtual and arms.

"We thought it would be fun to inject yourself into the world of Paperboy," said John Bolton, a developer with Globacore Interactive Technologies.

The rear wheel of the bike was removed and the bike was connected to a Wahoo Kickr, which tracks how fast players are pedaling. That information is relayed to a computer that adjusts the speed the character rides down the street.

For the demonstration, some of the Kickr functions were disabled. But with all of its features enabled, the Kickr could also increase resistance if the course had hills or a dirt road, where in real life it might be more difficult to pedal.

The Kinect sensor tracks players' arms as they throw papers at the passing houses.

"The biggest challenge was identifying all the pieces we'd need to get this to work," said Bolton. "There's two computers, two iPads. It's a lot to force to work in harmony."

He said there are no immediate plans to commercialize the project as it was more of a proof of concept. The team plans to further develop the system and add levels.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

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