Smart VR suit aims to take VR haptics to the next level
With all the promising experiences that VR has to offer, and the upcoming launches of long-awaited VR headsets, it’s going to make our old ways of interacting with content obsolete and a thing of the past. Take video games for example. Even today, we are stuck with vibrating controllers that give feedback on whatever it is on screen. Haptics in VR is going to bridge the gap between the physical interactions with our virtual content – it’s the missing link to truly immersive and realistic VR. And now, one tech company is hoping to bridge that gap by using a futuristic smart suit.
UK-based VR tech company Tesla Studios (not to be confused with car tech company Tesla) is currently doing some developments on a haptics-enabled suit that is fitted to work with VR headsets like the Oculus Rift. It’s called the TeslaSuit, and it features modular components that work together as one, futuristic, touchy-feely suit. It is a full-body haptic device that allows its user to touch virtual environments such as in games, and let the virtual environment give back physical feedback to its user. It’s like feeling a hologram while it touches you back.
At the heart of the TeslaSuit is a belt, called the T-Belt, that acts as the control center of every haptic feedback. It contains custom electronics that communicate with VR headsets to control the felt sensations by the user. Not only it is configured to work with VR headsets – Tesla Studios says that the suit is also compatible to use with gaming consoles, PCs, as well as smartphones. Various sensors are fitted onto the T-Belt, doing several analyses of the user’s body movements and body temperature. The T-Belt is also fitted with a motion capture system, which enables the suit to correct the user’s body posture, and give massages as well by means of subtle electrical impulses. The best thing about the T-Belt is that it’s washable – no more worrying about drenching your suit in stink and sweat.
Another key modular component of the TeslaSuit is the T-Glove, a smart glove that is equipped with various sensors to enable its user to “touch” virtual environments and objects. Its delicate electronics gives off haptic feedback directly to the hands of the user, which is synchronized with the on-screen data transmitted from the T-Belt. It is designed to transmit motion data in real-time – so when you try to pull a trigger on a shooting game (Call of Duty, for example), you will definitely feel the sensation of the gun’s force feedback as well as the vibrations associated with it.
The entirety of the TeslaSuit is made up of a so-called “smart textile”, a material fitted with tiny electrical nodes that send out subtle impulses felt as haptic feedback. These nodes give off pressure sensations and variations in temperature, depending on the on-screen environment. So when you are being punched in a VR game, you will really feel its impact as it hits you right away.
TeslaSuit trusts its inter-device communications via Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy. The T-Belt contains a microcontroller based on the ARM Cortex chip architecture, which is the central unit that powers every feedback. Tesla Studios states that the suit will be made available by mid 2015, but there were no words on the pricing of the modular components. In addition, the components will be individually sold, although there were no information on what components comes first in availability. If you really want to feel like being in a war game, or just simply feeling your VR content, the TeslaSuit is a must-watch item in your VR checklist.