Humphrey II

Credit: Ars Electronica

In the beginning, there was Humphrey — a mechatronic device that worked in conjunction with a pair of data glasses to simulate flight in a 3-D environment. This installation in the Ars Electronica Center has been a smash hit with visitors since the museum opened, having replaced almost all the exhibits on display there at least once in its first eight years. And, indeed, Humphrey would remain aloft in Ars Electronica’s airspace, but his new design would greatly enhance and intensify the experience of flight. Continual improvements in processing capabilities made it possible to generate simulations that got closer and closer to perfection. Virtual reality systems use stereoscopic imagery to produce the illusion of a real, three-dimensional environment.

By means of force feedback devices, even physical forces could be mechanically simulated in these virtual worlds. As the outcome of R&D work in which Ars Electronica Futurelab engineers utilized an empirical design process, Humphrey had mutated into the prototype of an apparatus that used a combination of virtual reality and force feedback technologies to impart a feeling of weightlessness that was as realistic as possible and of the centrifugal force generated by flying. An aspect that made a key contribution to this was the innovative mode of navigation, which enabled the user to steer through an artificial environment by means of intuitive arm movements. The essential elements were a data helmet, specially reinforced overalls resembling a pilot’s jumpsuit, and the equipment responsible for producing the force simulation. In designing the pneumatic components, engineers also took the factor of visual impact into consideration since one of their prime objectives was to enable users and observers alike to understand how the apparatus functioned. The contracting muscles that produced flight also gave viewers a direct impression of the forces at work upon the user.

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Stefan Mittlböck-Jungwirth-Fohringer, Gerfried Stocker, Horst Hörtner , Andreas Jalsovec, Robert Abt, Michael Büttner, Peter Brandl, Martin Bruner, Stefan Feldler, Peter Freudling, Martin Honzik, Christopher Lindinger, Werner Pötzelberger, Erwin Reitböck, Wolfgang Ziegler.

Wearable Design: Fa. Form – Mario Zepetzauer, Degen Stefan
Exhibition Architecture: Scott Ritter, Jakob Edlbacher
In cooperation with:

  • Wintex
  • Form
  • Rosenbauer

Special Thanks: Thomas Kienzl, Wöber Anton, Flugschule “Wings”, Dietmar Offenhuber, Martin Sturm, Stefan Stipek, Stefan Steiner, Gerold Hofstadler, Rudolf Hanl, Thomas Teibler, D.O.R.I.S. – Thomas Ebert, Kurt Pfleger, Gerhard Riegler, Franz Nagelreiter

See also