Disney’s vibrating jacket could transform VR experiences

Disney’s vibrating jacket could transform VR experiences
VR experiences often lack true haptic feedback to deliver a heightened sense of reality. Disney Research has tackled the problem with the Force Jacket, which aims to add more physical response to VR content.

We last heard about Disney Research’s haptic hopes in 2017 when it revealed details of its mixed reality Magic Bench.

Using inflatable bags to simulate pressure and force related to visual content, the new wearable device now brings haptic feedback into a virtual environment. 

Disney Research worked with MIT and Carnegie Mellon University to come up with the concept that can simulate a wide range of sensations: a tap on the shoulder, slime dripping down a back and crawling insects. 

Many of the sensations are reportedly very realistic. The Force Jacket uses 26 bags that can be inflated and deflated independently. It can therefore deliver varying amounts of pressure and vibrations across the torso and arms, powered by an air compressor and vacuum pump.  

Disney has been testing the jacket on 16 participants, who wore the device and played through and number of VR apps. 

As the video above shows, users can experience muscle growth, a snowball hit and a snake coiling around their body. The combination and speed of inflation and deflation creates sensations such as “Strike: effects experienced by actuating one air compartment to elicit the feeling of an impact or force against the body”, designers said in a research paper

Other effects use different rates of inflation and more bags for more subtle effects. For example, quickly filling and emptying the bags feels like vibrations. The 16 participants said they could feel specific sensations with “Motorcycle Vibration” and “Snake Crawling” among the most realistic. 

Disney Research notes that the bulk of the jacket and its necessary connection to air and vacuum supply is a limiting factor in its practical application. However, it recommends a “Force Jacket effect prototyping workshop” to expand the Jacket’s library of effects. 

The paper concludes: “Ultimately the Force Jacket provides a new haptic actuation method that can deliver far more immersive experiences by engaging the whole body.”

[Via Disney Research]

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