Force Feedback Tech Offers The Joy Of Impalement

| 20 Sep 2011 16:36

A newly developed force feedback device finally allows users to experience the best part of gaming: Being stabbed.

If you're reading this text, I feel pretty comfortable in assuming that you are aware of "force feedback," at least subconsciously. Your Xbox 360 controller rumbling when you get shot? That's force feedback. In essence, it's a way of offering tactile, real-world sensations to a player based on events that occur within a game. The goal of the whole concept is "maximum immersion."

Unfortunately, to date the various force feedback systems have only ever been able to produce rumbling, jarring sensations. That works fine for impacts and your average "giant minotaur stomping a shockwave into the ground," but it fails to capture the experience of more subtle, pointed danger.

Luckily, researchers at Japan's University of Electro-Communications have created what they call a "phantom sensation device" that offers wearers the sensation of items passing through them by alternately stimulating two opposing points on the body. explains how the gadget currently works:

The sensation device is still in development, but currently relies on a Wii Remote to track the movement of your hand in 3D space. A vibration unit is then placed on the front and back of the hand that can vary the amount and timing of the vibration being applied on either side. Introducing software to that equation allows the user to experience an object on screen passing through their own hand.

The test setup currently uses a ball that drops from the top of the screen to the bottom repeatedly. If the user wearing the phantom sensation device positions their hand correctly, they can both see and feel the ball passing through their hand.

As you can imagine, that ball test is simply a proof of concept. Once all the kinks have been worked out, this tech could be tied directly to games, offering players the sensation of having bullets pass through them mid-firefight.

Pleasantly, the device seemingly simulates this violence without all the messy pain normally involved in that sort of thing. Users feel something enter them, exit the other side, and presumably live the rest of their lives in fear of amorous ghosts.

Despite the impressive work these researchers have done so far, this technology is still very much in its infancy. Don't expect the next PlayStation to penetrate anything other than your wallet.


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