If enormous flat screen TVs and surround sound aren’t enough to satisfy your hunger for immersive gaming then maybe you need to be shot. Virtually, that is. Saurabh Palan from the Haptics Lab at the University of Pennsylvania has developed the Tactile Gaming Vest (TGV) a device that lets you feel the impact of bullets, and the slashing sensation of knives as you play action packed video games. The TGV is mounted with solenoids that strike you (for bullets) and vibrating motors (for the knife slashing sensation) that respond to cues from the game and let you feel what your character feels on the screen. Palan hopes to give users a “4-D” experience, with tactile feedback providing the extra dimension of immersion. The TGV debuted at the recent 2010 Haptics Symposium to much fanfare and positive reviews. While this device is still in the early prototype phase, haptic vests may one day be adapted to provide real sensations for military training, movies, and yes, amazing video games.
The TGV isn’t the first vest with physical feedback. In fact, you can go online now and order one from TN Games for $140. That system, however, uses compressed air, making its response slower and less precise than the TGV. Most other haptic vests have relied on just one kind of feedback. Palan has incorporated both impacts and vibrations, and plans on including more. The original TGV prototype (which was tested at UPenn in September ’09) also contained heating elements to give wearers the sensation of blood flowing from a wound. That part of the system had to be removed because of its need for high electric current. According to Palan’s website, they also considered adding in features to simulate punches, kicks, ambient temperature, artillery explosions. Sounds like a full military or disaster relief simulator in the making.
For now, the TGV is most notable for how it points the way to a full-body haptic experience. Combine many different modes of feedback and you’ll be able to approximate a much wider range of sensations. We already have the necessary technology to do haptics today. All it takes is solenoids, eccentric motors, peltier (heating) elements, good programming, and a lot of creativity. Palan seems to have each of those in spades. Hopefully he, or one of the many other haptics researchers, will continue to develop feedback suits until they’re good for more than just a great round of Halo.
[image credits: Saurabh Palan]
[source: iRoboticist (Palan’s personal website)]