At the 2018 Augmented World Expo, tucked away at the back of the Santa Clara Convention Center, a very small robot was learning to dance. I know so because I was the one teaching it, simply by flailing my limbs around and having it mirror my movements. I was literally doing the robot.
This was all happening because of a (slightly-too-small) jacket on my back called the HoloSuit, which was covered in sensors. These sensors tracked every movement and relayed that information to a tiny robot stood nearby, doing its best to pop and groove in time.
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The HoloSuit, created by Kaaya Tech, is actually three bits of clothing that can be worn separately or combined: a jacket, some gloves and a pair of pants. There are two versions of the full-body suit, one with 26 sensors and a more high-end version with a total of 36 sensors scattered across the jacket gloves and pants. Even 26 is a lot when you compare it to other motion capture bodysuits; 36 should make for some pretty incredible precision.
Both suits also have nine haptic feedback sensors, and buttons on the hands, opening up a host of other possibilities beyond motion capture.
For example, Kaaya CEO Harsha Kikkeri showed me a video animation of someone in a submarine launching torpedoes at an unseen enemy. Going from dancing robots to literal war was quite an escalation, but it illustrated the varied spectrum of possible use cases. It’s not easy to train inside submarines, but the HoloSuit could be a way to simulate that environment, training people as if they were helming a sub beneath the depths.
Or, it could be used to improve your golf swing. The suit could essentially replace a coach, using haptic signals to shake out your bad habits. As Kikkeri explained, you could then take the suit to the golf course and have it track your performance, giving you insight into your performance after.
It may find a use for manual labor jobs to alert employees when they’re putting themselves in physical danger – or maybe for controlling robots sent into burning buildings. There are a lot of possibilities, including plenty of applications in VR and AR. Immediately I thought about using this as a full-body virtual reality controller.
Harsha Kikkeri knows a thing or two about robots: he was a robotics software engineer for Microsoft for several years. Now he’s applying that expertise to humans, and the results are promising. The HoloSuit seemed very precise in my demo, even though I was only using the jacket part. Kikkeri then put on his own jacket showed me a computer character on the screen tracking his movements with even more exactness than the robot did.
The HoloSuit is now on Kickstarter gathering funds, with an aim to ship the suit in November. Kaaya is offering all the parta a la carte, but the full suit starts at $799.