One Day Games Will Caress, Smack You

Imagine playing a game that can caress you, run its finger down your back, make you feel as if you're flying, falling, crashing, or bugs are crawling over your face.

The folks at Disney Research Pittsburgh (DRP. Yes, really.) are showing off a surround haptics system that relies on traditional tactile actuators and phantom sensation to recreate the feelings of everything from the stroke of a finger to the jolt of a car crash, according to a press release.

In their demonstration, developed with the help of Carnegie Mellon University and presented at the International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Vancouver, the team built what they call a "high-intensity" driving simulator game using Black Rock Studio's Split/Second. The game is meant to let you feel a broad range of sensations including collisions, road imperfections, tire traction, skidding, ripples of landing forces, acceleration, braking, falling objects and damage.

Another demonstration uses the Xbox 360 Kinect and a custom plywood chair. The seat and backrest is made of soft pads embedded with tactile grids. The user then controls a game with full-body gestures and experiences haptic feedback. Think of it as a rumble controller for the body.

"Although we have only implemented Surround Haptics with a gaming chair to date, the technology can be easily embedded into clothing, gloves, sports equipment and mobile computing devices," said Ivan Poupyrev, senior research scientist at DRP, who invented and developed Surround Haptics with Ali Israr, also of DRP. "This technology has the capability of enhancing the perception of flying or falling, of shrinking or growing, of feeling bugs creeping on your skin. The possibilities are endless."

The thing that makes this technology different is that it relies not just on the tactile sensation of being touched by actuators, but also creates phantom sensations that can deliver more subtle feelings.


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