Virtual Reality as much as we have known it yet strives to deliver an immersive experience. Where Virtual Reality Games lets you see the surroundings in 3D, there is one thing still missing that holds back the users from having a real immersive experience. However, that missing piece from the puzzle may soon find its way to fulfill the objective of a virtual world.
A team of researchers at the lab of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) in Germany’s Hasso Plattner Institute have been working on a prototype device called Impacto which is worn on the players arm, leg or foot to feel the impact of a real blow in a VR game. The software is integrated with Virtual Reality headset and stimulates the impulse of the contact in the player’ body.
Led by Professor Patrick Baudisch the innovative team created Impacto which is basically an Electrical Muscle Stimulator (EMS) which sends an impulse of the hit encountered by the user by thrusting the arm backwards at the virtual point of contact. Therefore, it is not just a simple vibrator but it combines haptic vibration engine with EMS to closely mimic the sensations of real world such as a push or a pull. The device is also capable to render relatively stronger hits by decomposing the stimulus to send impulse sensations separately in bits.
Impacto can also be worn on the leg or ankle to feel the impact of and sensation of kicking a ball in a football game or even feel the arm flex while hitting a ball with a bat in a game of baseball. The “bat” in that scenario will be an EMS prop to register the contact with the virtual ball while the EMS on the arm will render the impulse on the player’s arm.
The device however, is compact and wireless and so can be worn without the hassle of being restricted as the user can move around freely with the wearable. The generic shape and structure of the device makes it feasible to be worn around an ankle or foot or the leg of the player depending upon the nature of impact.
The next stage of evolution for Impacto innovators would be to integrate the device into modules which could be combined to construct a suit of sorts to enhance its use cases as the players could then feel the impact through multiple points of contact. Thus, the user would be able to feel contact with objects in the VR all over their body. On that exciting note, let’s look forward to an even brighter future of Virtual Reality.