With the Oculus Rift taking a recent price drop to the £499.99 mark, a HTCvive still sitting at £805.77 for a full set and the PS VR coming in at £347.50 — the virtual reality gaming market continues to gain traction, slowly becoming more viable for consumers with more titles popping up monthly.
At the cutting edge of the race for who can have the most immersive and real VR package available, Haptic technology could very well fill in the gap for what the most complete experience would offer, with the inclusion of every human sensory function as a core part of anything you’re playing.
Check our earlier blog for ~ 4 upcoming VR games to watch out for.
A little history on what haptic technology is
In simple terms Haptic technology can be easily associated with something your body can recognise as a sensory feeling ie the ability to smell, to feel heat & cold, pain, pressure and vibrations.
Interestingly, Haptic has actually been around for a long time, since 1989 actually so before the SNES or Nintendo 64 had even entered the market to give you some sense of time scale.
Haptic feedback or Haptic technology is the process of receiving and understanding information in the virtual world via your sensations. Almost everyone has experienced haptic technology in their lives, a mobile phones capacity to vibrate during a classic game of Snake or when you receive a text.
However, beyond the everyday buzz of our smartphones, Haptic is moving a whole lot further to incorporate the feeling of heat, taste, sound, smell and nerve-based reaction into our gaming experiences, into watching a movie, even learning based simulations in high pressure medical situations could incorporate random events that disrupt concentration in their real life equivalent using Haptic elements.
Haptic technology can be defined more specifically under five different typologies:
- Force Feedback
- Vibrotactile Feedback
- Thermogenic Feedback
- Electrotactile Feedback
- Ultrasound Tactile Feedback
Under these categories we account for the five basic sensory functions the human body is governed by feeling in: heat, taste, sound, smell, and nerve based reaction.
How does this advance virtual reality experiences?
This is where things get quite exciting. While I could take you on a nostalgic trip down memory lane to 1994 and the giant arcade-style guns used for games like Time Crisis and Die Hard, which–at the time–were the absolute pinnacle of our experience with haptic technology..
It’s safe to say things have moved on a lot since then. The recent pushes into full sensory haptic VR are truly going to see the immersive experience come into its own, as the separation into a fully immersive world that is much more visceral.
The difference between the two is that The Void is built almost like an augmented reality simulation, with real life experiences layer over pre-built, pre-rendered objects set out in courses that utilise and incorporate Haptic technology into the experience.
However, it’s still a real life incorporation of sorts. Let’s say you’re walking along a rooftop in a rainy sprawling cityscape in a game and you feel rain on your face as a water mister powers up in reality, whereas there may be a grey cloud cover coming in from the north over the city in the game.
Equally well placed thin string and mesh can mimic in-game cobwebs helping to further immerse the gamer with a sense of real touch and haptic touch furthermore drawing the mental reaction of “eww cobwebs”.
Full haptic technology will aim to go further than this, with all sensory feelings–such as touch, smell and heat–can be experienced anywhere without a predetermined environment being built with it in mind.
Meet the Teslasuit & Six Other Haptic Technology Wearables
With an obvious market present and very much willing to take on an ever increasing level of immersion in game, a few key contenders have appeared offer this full blown haptic experience.
Introducing the ‘Teslasuit’, the ‘Hardlight VR Suit’, ‘Haptika’, ‘Axon VR’, ‘Rapture Vest’, ‘Synesthesia Suit’, and Google Haptic Helpers. That’s right, in development now you can actually find no less than six different varieties of haptic technology based sensory VR suits, vests, body-wear and even in the case of Axon a full on exoskeleton, that’s right i s* you not exoskeleton**.
All six of the above are either in development, in beta use or looking for further funding. Furthermore, all are building towards the same goal of bringing every human sense into the virtual experience. Touch, taste, smell, texture, sound, heat, cold… you name it, haptic creators are aiming to bring it to life.
The Teslasuit is a full body version of this vision and the Rapture Vest–which is already in full use within Utah’s The Void-mentioned above– require a computer to be harnessed onto the back of each player in order to make the experience fully mobile.
Therefore, the only actual contender right now (which is actually a little tongue in cheek) is Google’s Haptic Helpers, which is shown in the video below.
Does this change the face of gaming & VR as we know it?
Almost certainly… and i’m sure most will agree with me.
However, the fact that VR technology for gaming is yet to even graze the surface of the household market–in the same way as games consoles–does pose an interesting problem.
As the top VR headsets are only beginning to hit a faintly affordable price, and with this on the horizon would you simply hold off as to not miss out if a year or so’s wait is the only differentiating factor.
Many popular real life activities such as paintball, airsoft, martial arts, and abandoned building exploration could have a new, virtual competitor.
The unlimited creative potential of a VR meets haptic world could bring gamers adrenaline-endorsing bursts of pain, shock, and force built in, amongst other senses.
Could haptic technology be the go-to solution for every activity you could never afford, or isn’t immediately available to you locally? An amazing feat for gaming and virtual reality haptic simulation could be worrying backwards step for outdoor activities, action sports and imaginative fantasy role-play.
If you weren’t already sold on the evolution of immersive virtual reality, the addition of full sensory haptic technology could be a “sky is the limit” moment for technology. Just imagine the uses outside of gaming… of real life simulation for medical practise, engineering, and so much more.
To say that games could bring a genuine emotional response–as your body reacts instinctively to pain, exertion, heat, and force pressure–is pretty amazing
With a suit on-hand to fully emulate the circumstances that would create these responses, haptic technology could present the last element of perfect immersive virtual experience.
As always thank you for reading, if you enjoy my ramblings, writings, tangents and massively obvious LOVE of all things gaming and tech then please do follow this blog for more :)