Video gaming is about to get a lot more sensational

New tactile technology featuring 'virtual actuators' allows gamers to feel physical sensations such as flying, falling or shrinking.

Surround Haptics (photo credit: Surround Haptics )
Surround Haptics
(photo credit: Surround Haptics )
Disney Research has developed a new tactile technology that allows video game players and film viewers to feel physical sensations, like a finger being drawn against skin or the movement of a car.
The technology, called Surround Haptics is based on psychophysical experimentation and new models of tactile perception.
Disney is set to  demonstrate Surround Haptics Aug. 7-11 at the Emerging Technology Exhibition at SIGGRAPH 2011, the International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Vancouver.
The demonstration, developed with Carnegie Mellon University,  will showcase the technology in a high-intensity driving simular game in collaboration with Disney’s Black Rock Studio.
Players sit in a chair with vibrating actuators, the technology will enable them to feel road bumps and objects falling on the car, skidding and braking.
"Although we have only implemented Surround Haptics with a gaming chair to date, the technology can be easily embedded into clothing, gloves, sports equipment and mobile computing devices," said Ivan Poupyrev, senior research scientist at DRP, who invented and developed Surround Haptics with Ali Israr, also of DRP. "This technology has the capability of enhancing the perception of flying or falling, of shrinking or growing, of feeling bugs creeping on your skin. The possibilities are endless."
Researchers designed an algorithm for vibrating actuators by way of creating “virtual actuators” within the grid of actuators. As a result, users can feel discrete motions such as a finger tracing a pattern on skin.
Beyond the user enhancement of interactive games, movies and music, Surround Haptics' technology can be applied to a new means of communication for the blind, emergency workers, vehicle operators and athletes.