Apr 29th 2010 By Justin Massoud
The Nintendo Wii delivered motion controls to the mass market. Sony's Move controller
and Microsoft's Natal
are aiming to capitalize on getting gamers to move more than their thumbs. But what about the next leap forward? A group of inventors at the University of Pennsylvania may have found the answer with their Tactile Gaming Vest.
Created by grad student Saurabh Palan and some fellow engineers, the TGV allows players of shooters like "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" to feel the sensation of being shot whenever they are blasted in-game. As if we needed more incentive to camp.
It sounded so intense that we reached out to Saurabh to get some more info on the project, inquire about other possible applications, and find out if we could pre-order one.
"I am not a hardcore gamer," Palan said. "I am a roboticist. When I started with [the TGV], I pitched the idea for making a vest for a movie-watching experience inspired by Disney's 4-D motion pictures screened at various adventure parks. But it seems to be an easier task to have a gaming application to test the hardware."
Palan's venture is based in haptics -- feedback technology that engages the user's sense of touch. In order to test the hardware in an actual game, Palan and company chose fan favorite PC shooter "Half Life 2
." Bespectacled MIT graduate-turned-alien-killing-hero Gordon Freeman
would be proud.
Though it's easy to imagine one of the big three console manufacturers getting behind the TGV, Palan has had no luck so far getting their attention. "I tried to contact Microsoft," he explained. "I met a person at a Microsoft conference but I haven't heard anything back yet. I would be glad to get in touch with the right person, but my efforts to do so have not yielded any results."
In Palan's view the TGV heralds a host of advantages for gamers: "From our preliminary run we have noticed that a user benefits from such feedback as it increases their alertness and awareness of their surroundings." No one likes getting killed, and the TGV reinforces that with a sharp sensation. "Suppose the user is shot in the back in the game," said Palan. "There is no other way to know that precisely apart from the Haptic feedback. The main aim is to increase the immersiveness."
Palan also thinks the technology could branch out to other disparate fields, such as military simulations and medical training: "There are definitely many more uses for this technology then just getting shot, but everyone is just taking baby steps towards the future, building one sensation at a time."
As for the future of haptics in video games however, Palan believes the future is now, or at least very soon.
"I believe that it will not be more than two years from now that such devices will be common among gamers," Palan said.
Whether he's right or not, increasing immersion via unique control interfaces seems to be the order of the day for many developers. With 3-D gaming struggling to find its bearings in consumers' relevancy radars and the next round of game consoles only a few years away, Palan's project may very well end up being inspiration for the next big thing in gaming.
For more on Palan's project, check out his official site here