June 23, 2011 / 7:32 AM / in 8 years

Virtual hugs, energy beams take stage at Japan expo

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - People hugged themselves and shot energy beams from their hands, just a few of the many treats on offer at the Tokyo Virtual Reality Expo this week.

Cutting-edge technology was on display for both practical use and just play, with more than 450 exhibitors taking part in the three-day advanced 3D and motion sensing technologies fair at a downtown Tokyo site.

Fans of the popular Japanese anime series “Dragon Ball” were given the chance to produce a beam of energy — known as a “Kamehame Ha” — from their hands.

Motion sensors able to detect a person’s hand movements noticed when they made the right move to “charge” the energy beam. Pushing the hands away released the beam of light in the augmented reality display.

“I’ve always dreamed about firing energy blasts. I just realized my dream,” said 37-year-old Toru Hayai, an avid “Dragon Ball” fan.

At another booth, visitors tried out a vest that replicates the hug given to a mannequin standing in front of them, allowing them to literally hug themselves.

The six air-pumped “muscles” on the vest inflate with the injection of air to recreate the sensation of a person’s embrace.

“Nobody can really hug themselves in the real world, so I was curious about what they would feel if they could. That curiosity drove me to invent this vest,” said 23-year-old Nobuhiro Takashi.

His team from the University of Electro-communications won the top prize in last year’s International Collegiate Virtual Reality Contest, held in Tokyo.

Tomoki Okawara, a 22-year-old university student, beamed after an extended clinch with the mannequin that had him closing his eyes at one point.

“It feels like I’m hugging a hot girlfriend,” he said.

Reporting by Hyun Oh; writing by Olivier Fabre; editing by Elaine Lies

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