I’m sure some fathers ask this question, at least some of them should be wondering what it feels like to be carrying a baby. The idea was also the subject of a Hollywood movie some time ago (Junior (1994)), where you can watch the manly Schwarzenegger become pregnant and go through all sorts of phases as a man. But aside from fiction, according to the recent news from New Scientist, Takuya Iwamoto and his team from the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology developed a sophisticated virtual reality system that simulates the weight, temperature, movement and heartbeat of a fetus.

Virtual Pregnancy

Virtual Pregnancy

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.

It seems like you don’t have to be Schwarzenneger or a scientist to experience what it feels like to be pregnant. 😉