The Force Jacket is the latest project being designed and developed by Disney, MIT and Carnegie Mellon University to provide users with a variety of tactile and sensational attributes. This is achieved through sensors and airbags. Virtual reality has previously been limited to a head-mounted display (HMD), controllers, and other devices such as haptic gloves. With the Force Jacket, this is now being taken to the next level by adding new kinds of perception and depth to VR.
“The primary motivation of this research was to enhance the entertainment value of [head-mounted display]-based visual VR experiences in games and movies, by providing on-body force feedback,” the researchers wrote in a paper.
The Force Jacket has been equipped with 26 airbags, and weights five pounds. Through signals controlled by a system of sensors and pressures, the jacket will inflate or deflate to deliver an experience that accentuates the visual and auditory experience. These sensations are created by modifying the speed, force and duration of inflating or deflating the airbags. The pressure and vibrations can also correspond with visual displays, allowing users to feel the actions they perform and witness in a VR game.
“As VR and AR applications increasingly expand to full-body, spatial experiences, tactile sensation must expand with them,” the researchers wrote in an abstract about the project. “Even in the real world, very few experiences are conveyed by vibration alone.”
Presently, the jacket has three VR programs to simulate hugs, getting pushed around, punched, and even has a program to simulate a snake slithering across your body. Really?
While the technology is still in its research stage, the applicational usage of the device is another tool, that in time, will provide users with a more in-depth virtual reality experience.