While the major head-mounted display (HMD) manufacturers are creating zero latency devices to aid the immersive aspects of virtual reality (VR), and other companies are making omni-directional treadmills for the same reason, another aspect rarely looked at is force feedback. A research team at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany, is developing a device to do just that, called Impacto.
A research project by Pedro Lopes, Alexandra Ion and Patrick Baudisch, Impacto is a device designed to simulate the physical impact of hitting and being hit in VR. Made up of two components, the first is a solenoid that taps the skin, mimicking being hit while the second component electrically stimulates the muscle thrusting the users arm. It works very much like the electrical pads used by fitness people to tone areas of the body like the abs.
As the video below demonstrates Impacto is primarily designed for VR fighting videogames, where the device is attached to arms or legs give the user far more sensation when punching, kicking or receiving hits. But the system can also be used on sports titles like baseball. The small self-contained, wireless design, is small enough for wearable use, and doesn’t look too restrictive, allowing users to walk around freely in a virtual environment while waering a HMD like the Oculus Rift.
As it’s still a research project there is still some way to go, but VRFocus will continue to follow any more updates released for Impacto and will report back.