Thinking Tech

Video games like Assassin's Creed are about to get very real

Video games like Assassin's Creed are about to get very real

Posting in Design

New tactile technology will give video game players and movie goers the experience of what they see on screen.

Hold onto your seat because video games are about to feel really, really real. As in, you will soon be able to feel the hair-raising chills that you see on screen.

A collaboration between researchers at Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon's School of Design has developed an experience called Surround Haptics. (Haptics is a sense of touch, from the Greek "I touch.")

Players, or even film viewers in a movie theater, will sit in chairs outfitted with vibrating actuators that will mimic the visual experiences on screen. For instance, if playing a driving simulator video game, Surround Haptics will provide the experience of pot holes, objects falling on the car, even the sensation of skidding, braking or speeding up. There will also be the harsher experiences of collisions and hard landings. But other sensations may be as gentle as a sleepy kitten.

The technology is being presented this week in Vancouver at the Emerging Technology Exhibition at SIGGRAPH 2011.

Amazingly, the researchers say the technology can be easily embedded into clothing, gloves, sports equipment and mobile systems. Also, Smart Planet covered the use of mobile haptics in a specialized military belt.

Ivan Poupyrev, a research scientist at Disney, noted in a press release, "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."

What makes it limitless is that two or more physical actuators can create a virtual actuator, since we humans can experience illusionary or phantom sensations when stimulated in separate areas. This is how the scientists plan to veil the buzzing and pulsing of haptic actuators, and have a sensation as smooth as a fore finger tracing one's arm.

{Photo: Assassin's Creed]

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Christie Nicholson

Contributing Writer

Christie Nicholson produces and hosts Scientific American's podcasts 60-Second Mind and 60-Second Science and is an on-air contributor for Slate, Babelgum, Scientific American, Discovery Channel and Science Channel. She has spoken at MIT/Stanford VLAB, SXSW Interactive, the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council, the Space Studies Board and Brookhaven National Laboratory. She holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Dalhousie University in Canada. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure