A flostation is a computer-controlled apparatus that, along with one or more computer(s) and other computer-controlled equipment, is part of an immersive cyberspace system. The system is said to be “immersive” in two senses of the word: (1) It supports the body in a modified form neutral posture experienced in zero gravity and (2) it is equipped with computer- controlled display equipment that helps to give the occupant of the chair a feeling of immersion in an environment that the system is designed to simulate.
Neutral immersion was conceived during the Gemini program as a means of training astronauts for working in a zerogravity environment. Current derivatives include neutral-buoyancy tanks and the KC-135 airplane, each of which mimics the effects of zero gravity. While these have performed well in simulating the shorter duration flights typical of the space program to date, a training device that can take astronauts to the next level will be needed for simulating longer-duration flights such as that of the International Space Station. The flostation is expected to satisfy this need. The flostation could also be adapted and replicated for use in commercial ventures ranging from home entertainment to medical treatment.
The use of neutral immersion in the flostation enables the occupant to recline in an optimal posture of rest and meditation. This posture, combines savasana (known to practitioners of yoga) and a modified form of the neutral posture assumed by astronauts in outer space. As the occupant relaxes, awareness of the physical body is reduced. The neutral body posture, which can be maintained for hours without discomfort, is extended to the eyes, ears, and hands. The occupant can be surrounded with a full-field-of-view visual display and “nearphone” sound, and can be stimulated with fullbody vibration and motion cueing. Once fully immersed, the occupant can use neutral hand controllers (that is, hand posture sensors) to control various aspects of the simulated environment.
A logical extension of the basic flostation concept is the concept of a floroom — a system of multiple flostations that can be used by multiple occupants working either by themselves or interaction with each other. As the use of flostations spreads, the immersive cyberspace environments that they create will likely appeal to a vast audience. Indeed, the inventor of the flostation foresees a day when floors will be installed in venues as diverse as hotels, museums, airports, and theme parks — a far cry from the utilitarian scope of neutral immersion as conceived in the early days of spaceflight. Florooms would enable users to share experiences on a large scale — for example, immersive rock concerts or sporting events. A floroom could contain hundreds of flostations.
At present, the flostation is available in two versions. One is a static version, which includes the chair portion (the flochair) equipped with a hemispherical screen (the flodome) that is lowered over the occupant’s head so the occupant’s eyes are at the center of the dome and the field of view is filled by an image generated on a standard liquid-crystal-display projector. The static version also includes shakers and loudspeakers mounted on a simple motorized reclining base. The other version is a dynamic one in that the flochair is mounted on a six-degree-of-freedom hydraulic base. The static version is intended for public and home use; the dynamic version is better suited to the space program.
Flostations could prove beneficial in applications beyond the space program for which they were originally developed. For example, they might be used in medicine for pain-reduction therapy or to treat psychoses.
This work was done by Brian Park of Flogiston Corp. for Johnson Space Center.
In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:
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Refer to MSC-22932, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.