This week, researchers from Philips Electronics plan to describe a jacket they have lined with vibration motors to study the effects of touch on a movie viewer’s emotional response to what the characters are experiencing.
“People don’t realize how sensitive we are to touch, although it is the first sense that fetuses develop in the womb,” says Paul Lemmens, a Philips senior scientist who will be presenting research done using the jacket at the IEEE-sponsored 2009 World Haptics Conference 2009, in Salt Lake City.
The jacket contains 64 independently controlled actuators distributed across the arms and torso. The actuators are arrayed in 16 groups of four and linked along a serial bus; each group shares a microprocessor. The actuators draw so little current that the jacket could operate for an hour on its two AA batteries even if the system was continuously driving 20 of the motors simultaneously.
So what can the jacket make you feel? Can it cause a viewer to feel a blow to the ribs as he watches Bruce Lee take on a dozen thugs? No, says Lemmens. Although the garment can simulate outside forces, translating kicks and punches is not what the actuators are meant to do. The aim, he says, is investigating emotional immersion.
The key to this technology is the fact that activating the Jacket is done via a virtual worlds (or even a simple DVD). The codes are stored and activated at the right time and intensity. This is one of the core areas of connecting real and virtual worlds as reflected in the future MPEG-V standard.