Virtual reality is already pretty realistic, but tactile experience is limited to handheld sensations or simple vibrations.
Currently, VR headsets dominate this technological landscape, and much of the experience is restricted to being able to visualize a simulated event. Now new research has determined to add a new component to the mix, taking sight and sound and adding other physical sensations.
Disney is trying to create a more immersive VR experience with Force Jacket. The prototype is made from a converted life jacket that’s been retrofitted with 26 airbags.
Using an air compressor, vacuum pump and sensors, each airbag can be manipulated to replicate a sensation such as being hit in the chest by a snowball.
So far, researchers have been able to re-create the sensation of getting tapped on the shoulder, being punched in the side and having a snake coiling its body around the user. Also, they claim to be studying effects such as a racing heartbeat, a hand tap on the shoulder, and a bug crawling up your arm, with further efforts to control things more specifically, such as how fast the bug is crawling.
People wearing the vest can even feel what it’s like to have their muscles grow to the size of a superhero’s.
Applications for virtual reality have gained traction in the industrial market when it comes to training, and companies use headsets to help workers gain spatial awareness and practice skills without putting themselves or others at risk of an accident. Adding other sensations like those seen in the force jacket could help mimic conditions like weight and pressure that one might experience in the field, adding a more realistic component to the training process.