Using headsets that place a user "inside" a different environment, virtual reality technology (VR) can place people in imaginary worlds at the push of a button. The uses are nearly endless.
A city planner can have people tour a proposed building before it has even been built. Or training simulations can be designed to test skills in dangerous situations ... without actually putting people in danger. And then, of course, there are the games.
Because let's face it. One of the most thrilling parts of VR is how it allows you to be immersed in a video game! Right? Except that it's not complete immersion...
What you see might be different than what is actually around you. After all, you're still in your TV room, standing on the floor near the couch. You can't feel like you're in the game. Well, a new invention from Disney is looking to bring gamers one step closer to being fully in the game!
It's called the Force Jacket.
Feel the force!
Okay, so the language in that video is a little bit super science-y. Compartments can be actuated for pressure or for vibro-tactile feedback. Uh, if you say so!
But here's the gist: The Force Jacket is filled with 26 air sacs, or compartments. Each one of these can be individually inflated or deflated. By pumping air in and out of them in different patterns, the jacket can make it feel like things that are happening in VR are actually happening to you. This is known as haptic technology.
For example, if a character in the game reaches out and touches your left shoulder, the air sac at your shoulder would inflate. Et voila... it feels like you've been touched! The force and speed of the inflation can be controlled to imitate everything from someone lightly brushing past you, to a ball hitting you in the chest. And by inflating the sacs in a sequence, it can feel like something is moving across you—as shown by the snake in the video.
Further testing needed
To be clear, this is just a prototype. A team of designers from Disney Research, MIT Media Lab, and Carnegie Mellon University are working together to improve the Force Jacket. They say that it is currently too bulky and awkward to wear. They want to be able to better simulate a wider variety of tricky sensations such as feeling rainfall, slime rolling down your back, a racing heartbeat, and more.
Are you ready for a world where you feel this much a part of a VR game? If you answered "Yes," it doesn't sound like you'll have to wait that long to have that chance!
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