Haptic technology is not extremely new. The beginnings of haptic touch technology has been seen as far back as the 1960s in the form of aviation technology. Although simple, Vibrations in airplane controls would give pilots information about engine stalls. Luckily, this has continued to evolve over the years and haptic vibrations and force feedback are now found in many different pieces of hardware. Haptic and tactile technology is not being seen in everything from medical/surgical equipment to art. Inevitably it will start to become available as another layer of immersion for virtual reality. I do not think that it is a large stretch to think that VR haptic suit will probably be available cheaply for the consumer marketplace within the next decade.
What is a VR Haptic suit?
A VR haptic suit allows the sense of touch as another layer of immersion to virtual reality systems. Currently, consumers interact with virtual reality systems using remote controls. The controls may provide some form of vibration or touch sensors to help the user interact with the virtual world. A true haptic suit would be a large jump in immersion technology from what is currently being used in today’s generation of VR systems. Imagine putting on your headset and being transported to a game similar to a Call of Duty. In this game, you would be able to feel the bullets or grenades hitting you. I would imagine it to feel similar to a nerf gun or a soft paintball. This would add an entirely new level of interaction with the games that are currently available on the market. A good example of how I would visualize the future version of the haptic suit is similar the one in the movie Ready Player One.
Im Sold, are Haptic Suits available for Virtual Reality?
The answer is yes and no. Early development haptic suits are currently available on the market. Unfortunately, the are still in the early stages of development and are primarily being used in commercial settings and military training. Consumer haptic suits at a reasonable price tag are still quite likely a couple years out. As with most technology, it is developed and initially applied to commercial uses. As virtual reality continues to become more popular with everyday consumers and the technology advances, it is a matter of time until virtual reality haptic suits become available to the everyday user.
Are there companies currently working on this technology?
Absolutely! A quick google search shows at least 4 or 5 companies that are currently developing this technology. A company that looks to have developed a very interesting haptic suit is TESLASUIT. They list the applications of their haptic suit as enterprise (everyday workplace development in a Virtual reality environment), Public Safety, Athletics and Rehabilitation. Looking at the images of suit, it seems very similar to what comes to mind when I visualize the future of haptic suit technology. Their suit has haptic feedback that allows for full body sensation and sense of touch. Their suit also includes biometric systems which allows for advanced health and performance analytics. I can say after taking a quick look through their website, I am extremely interested to see how this company progresses in their development of the haptic suit.