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Feeling What It's Like To Be Pregnant Through Virtual Reality

Ever wondered what it feels like to be pregnant? Now even men can find out thanks to a new dress created by Takuya Iwamoto from the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and his team that simulates the weight, temperature, movement and heartbeat of a fetus.

The device can replicate the 9-month long process in two minutes or it can be worn for a longer period to experience what it feels like day-to-day. To mimic the fetus, it contains a 4-litre bag filled with warm water. Kicking movement is recreated with a lining of 45 balloons that expand and contract. But wiggling is more complex to reproduce and requires a grid of air actuators that exploit a tactile illusion. When two vibrating sources placed a distance apart move at the same time, it triggers a sensation in between the two points. So by varying vibrating pairs over time, the simulated fetus seems to squirm.

The system also contains an accelerometer and touch sensors to allow for interaction. When the suit is connected to a computer, software displays a 3D model of the fetus that changes to mimic different stages of pregnancy. The fetus on the screen appears to be in a good mood when a wearer strokes their abdomen and makes steady movements. But if the person moves around vigorously, it will trigger more intense motion.

The team hopes the system will help men better to understand what a woman goes through during pregnancy. It offers a more realistic simulation than existing systems by reproducing the temperature and movement of the fetus.

The work will be presented in August at Siggraph 2011 in Vancouver, Canada.


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