As a Disney character said in a certain incredibly successful film ‘I like warm hugs’. The company responsible for the creation of that character seem to share the sentiment, and are working on a way to make hugs in virtual reality (VR) feel a lot more real.
Disney has a fairly substantial research team, many of whom have been involved with VR and mixed reality (MR) applications previously. The latest effort involves a force-feedback jacket that allows VR users to feel the sensations presented in VR.
Part of the appeal of VR is its ability to make you feel you are truly part of the VR environment, but this illusion is broken down somewhat when your only tactile feedback is a week buzz from the vibration motor in your controller.
A special jacket has been designed to tackle this problem, which uses inflatable compartments to give a feeling of pressure to the wearer. Different pressure levels and areas of the body can be affected to produce different effects.
One example involves a virtual scenario in while a giant green snake slithers up the user’s body and wraps around the torso, squeezing you in its grip. Disney are hoping that this can add to the VR experience in new ways.
“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 special jacket, dubbed The Force Jacket, has 26 inflatable compartments which can produce more than a dozen ‘feel effects’. These sensations are created by changing the speed, force and duration of the inflation and deflation of the airbags, all controlled by software synced with the head-mounted display (HMD).
As this is primary a research project, there is no telling if the Force Jacket will ever become a commercial product. Various methods of haptic force-feedback for VR are being experimented with, and VRFocus will continue to bring you the latest news on them.