Now this is something that was bound to happen eventually, but researchers at the Human-Computer Interaction lab in Germany have designed the technology to allow you to feel in VR. Going by the name Impacto, and still very much in the prototype stage, it’s a band you can wear around your arm, leg or foot that can simulate contact or use electrical stimulation to mimic impact.
There’s two separate technologies at work in the Impact. There’s a haptic vibration engine like that used in the Steam Controller which can tab or prod you, and there’s the electrical stimulation which can cause you to move entire limbs. Minor electrical impulses are sent into your skin which can throw your arm backwards and simulate you being hit or pushed in-game.
"The key idea that allows the small and light Impacto device to simulate a strong hit is that it decomposes the stimulus: it renders the tactile aspect of being hit by tapping the skin using a solenoid; it adds impact to the hit by thrusting the user's arm backwards using electrical muscle stimulation," said team lead Pedro Lopes.
"The device is self-contained, wireless, and small enough for wearable use, thus leaves the user unencumbered and able to walk around freely in a virtual environment. The device is of generic shape, allowing it to also be worn on legs, so as to enhance the experience of kicking, or merged into props, such as a baseball bat."
It’s easy to see the potential of tech like this for totally immersive gaming. Genuine feedback means you could actually feel as if you’re taking a penalty kick or an impact where you’ve been shot. Provide it’s not too realistic of course, I don’t want to find myself in the back of an ambulance.
There’s plenty that’s not so great about gear like this as well though, and I don’t imagine many people will be too keen to subject themselves to hours of small electric shocks.
Would you be keen to get something like Impact used in VR? Or is this a step too far for immersion?