WorstPlans.com updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible plans and ideas!

Tag: virtual reality

Feel the illusion of progress while accomplishing nothing! A “panorama treadmill” trick with metaphorical applications to other aspects of life too!

The issue:

Running on a treadmill can be quite unrewarding due to the repetitiveness and relatively long duration of most treadmill-based exercises.


Fig 1: This treadmill needs to be jazzed up somehow.

There are certain “gimmick”-based treadmills that connect to a monitor to give you the illusion of actually making progress toward a destination as you walk.

However, none of these is particularly immersive; it is still quite obvious that you are walking on a treadmill and staring at a screen.


Fig 2: As the user runs, the video on the treadmill updates to give the illusion that the user is actually running outdoors. But it’s still obviously just a screen, so the experience is sub-optimal.


We can solve this in a simple way:

Instead of using a standard monitor for the video output, we can either use a curved screen (if a sufficiently cheap one can be found) or a curved projector screen and a few cheap projectors.

Now the screen actually covers your peripheral vision, so you really get the illusion of movement!


Fig 3: A curved screen gives an immersive treadmill-running experience. Just like being outdoors! We can even save money by only projecting in high-resolution to the middle of the screen—since the sides will only be seen in the runner’s peripheral vision, those areas can be extremely low resolution.

VR glasses were also considered. While they would be more immersive and take up less space, VR setups are currently hampered by:

  1. Their tendency to fog up during exercise and
  2. The lack of options for dealing with a user’s disgustingly sweaty face.

PROS: Provides extra motivation to walk on a treadmill (or use an elliptical machine / rowing machine / stationary bicycle / etc.).

CONS: Takes up a lot of space. If you buy one of these for your own house, it will be even more of a shameful reminder of your lack of dedication when you stop using it after four weeks.



Take your pet to work, even if it’s extremely ill-tempered and beastly

Proposal: a system for virtually bringing pets into the office

Pet owners with 9-to-5 jobs may find that they miss their noble animal companion during work hours.

Some workplaces will allow well-behaved animals to hang out at work, but that is usually limited to dogs and draft animals. In any case, this addresses only a small subset of all possible domesticated animals.

However, with this new solution, we need not worry about badly-behaved animals, coworkers with allergies, or any other issues.


  1. The user must construct a “home office” environment that matches their work environment. For example, if there is a desk, a chair, and a monitor at work, those must also be present in the “home office.”
  2. This “home office” is actually just an environment where the user’s pet will dwell during work hours.
  3. The home office will contain many cameras (the blue rectangles in Fig. 1), which will reconstruct the exact location of the pet in the home office environment. This could be done with a technology similar to the Microsoft Kinect (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinect).
  4.  Finally, while at work, the user will wear a VR headset at all times. The headset will superimpose the home image of the pet on top of the user’s identical desk at work. It is possible that the desk and furnishings at home may need to be painted green in order to “green screen”-out the non-pet elements of the home office.


Fig 1: The user’s home office (or wherever their pet lives) will need to be configured with the exact same layout and furniture as the user’s desk / space at work. Cameras (in blue, above) will determine the exact orientation of the pet and render it in a 3-dimensional voxel space. Note: constructing the home office would probably be easy for most office jobs, but if a user’s job is (for example) deep-sea giant squid inspector, it could be more difficult to affordably re-create the work environment at home.


Fig 2: Here, we can see the virtual-reality-goggles-wearing pet owner at the right. The cat image appears real to the headset wearer, but is naturally invisible to everyone else. Since the home office has the same layout as the work office, the pet’s actions at home will appear to match the work environment; e.g., the pet could climb onto the work table or monitor, since there is actually a real-world analogue of those objects in the pet’s environment at home.

Note that it may also be possible to run this system in reverse; a pet could also wear a virtual-reality headset and obtain a “holographic” image of its owner at work.

PROS: Allows a pet owner to get 8+ additional hours of pet enjoyment out of a day.

CONS: May require substantial real-estate to be dedicated to the “home office” pet environment.


Bonus figure: Here is a potential patent application illustration for this amazing idea.

Immersive gaming by way of uncomfortable environments

The issue:

There are a number of popular computer games that take place in forbidding environments—in a blizzard atop a snowy beak, or inside a volcanic caldera.

However, there is no way of conveying the real feeling of temperature to the player. In a game like Skyrim, the player will be no worse for the wear even after blithely trudge through a blizzard for hours wearing only the medieval equivalent of a T-shirt.


Fig 1: Some kind of cold place with both penguins and igloos. Maybe a zoo in the arctic. Geographically questionable. Immersion: ruined!!!


Fig 2: Volcanic Caldera. Still a comfortable temperature at the desk, however! Immersion: ruined!!!

The proposal:

Games could have an interface to an array of different environment-affecting applicances. For example: a fan, an air conditioner, a space heater, and one of those supermarket mist-ers for keeping vegetables fresh.

When playing a game and wandering about on an icy mountain peak, the air conditioner and fan could both be going full blast, prompting the player to find shelter inside a tavern with a roaring fire (which would engage the space heater).

Perhaps in games with a protagonist who can swim, the supermarket mist-er could continually spray on the player while they were in the water. Realism!

A list of currently available modalities of feedback:
* Visual effects (e.g., a monitor, VR glasses)
* Sound
* Shaking / rumble (via a rumble-enabled controller)

Rare ones that already exist:
* Pain via electric shock (as seen in the dubious “PainStation” invention: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PainStation)
* Orientation / tilt (for professional flight simulators)

Suggested additional features that could be accomplished cheaply:

* Wind (a fan)
* Cold (an air conditioner / Peltier cooler)
* Heat (a space heater / Peltier heater)
* The Unbearably Bright Desert Sun (LED lights / photography lights)
* Water (a supermarket vegetable mist-er)


Fig 3: A set of fans could be used to give the impression of motion, as well.

It might be possible to just integrate temperature control into the controller using the Peltier heating/cooling effect. Or perhaps a vest that the player could wear, so as to provide a more complete experience.


Fig 4: Maybe the mouse could be heated / cooled for a faster-to-heat-up/cool-down and more cost-efficient system? That is supposed to be a mouse, by the way.

There is a possibility that sufficiently determined players might actually freeze to death while playing games, but natural selection should solve this problem within a few hundred generations.

A partial list of moddable games in which the temperature of the environment could be an important factor:
* Skyrim
* Fallout
* Minecraft
* Terraria

A simple version of this concept could be implemented with a mod plus a USB-controlled power strip.


Fig 5: Just plug this space heater into your USB-controlled power strip, and you can have it cook you whenever the computer commands it.

PROS: Would add a new immersive element to the multimedia experience, the likes of which have not been seen since the demise of “Smell-o-vision” in 1960.

CONS: As you might expect, there are none!