MIT engineers and Disney Research developed a new VR/AR tech: the force feedback jacket. Aptly named, this jacket could revolutionize the AR/VR gaming world.
Disney debuted what it calls the “Force Jacket” prototype at the end of April. This more visceral and immersive experience might be another boon for AR and VR.
How does it work and what can experiences can it simulate right now?
Next-Gen Haptics for Future VR
Think of when PlayStation and XBOX controllers first implemented the haptic “rumble” or vibration effects. Or, think about those “4-dimensional movies” you might have seen at Universal or Disney theme parks.
All of these stimulate your tactile senses to enhance your overall experience. Through sound, force, and vibration, you can take virtual reality one step farther. The new taxonomy might call this “force feedback”, but it has another name, too.
The movement toward the force feedback jacket started with what is called haptics.
Haptics describes sensations of touch, stimulation, or impact from the world around you. This is what the research team focused on to enhance VR and AR experiences.
The Disney Force Jacket uses inflatable airbags to mimic true sensation. It simulates squeezing, touching, punching, and hugging, as well as, unfortunately, how it feels to have a snake move across your body.
Indiana Jones (and myself) are not pleased with that part, but it’s still very cool.
Three Experiences to Test the Force Jacket
Along with the snake “experience”, the Disney Force Jacket offers two other AR/VR applications.
You can utilize the “snowball fight application” where you lob snowballs at a virtual character. But they also lob snowballs at you–and you feel them hit your chest. The final application utilizes HTC Vive or Kinect controllers for a more dynamic haptic experience.
Of course, the researchers see yet more applications (my favorite is giving hugs from far away). They can even simulate what it feels like to turn into the Incredible Hulk apparently.
But, thanks to its design, this technology doesn’t cost a fortune. While it will not likely be in homes any time soon, theme parks will likely be among the first adopters.