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. 

May the 4th Be With You and Revenge of the 5th might be over, but there is more “Force” news from Star Wars parent company Disney.

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.

image of Indiana Jones saying "Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?" for article Disney's Force Feedback Jacket Take Next Step in VR Technology
Indiana Jones | Lucasfilm via Imgflip

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.

 

image of Disney Force Jacket for article Disney's Force Feedback Jacket Take Next Step in VR Technology
Disney Force Jacket | Disney Research via VRFitness Insider

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.

Which video games would you like to play while wearing the Disney Force Jacket?

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