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Disney Reinvents The Vibrator … For Sensational Movies And Gaming

Disney researchers want to install tiny vibrators all over your body to give you delicate digital sensations–even on the sole of your foot.

moviegoers

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Disney Research has come up with a new technology so advanced your sensitive nerves will detect a “smooth tactile motion, akin to what we feel when someone drags a finger across our skin.” It’s all about taking the art of sensory feedback from games and movies to a whole new level of user experience.

Unlike the current state of haptic technology, which you’ve possibly felt with a crude jolt of “buzz” from the vibration units on some Android smartphones, Disney’s Haptic Surround tech is much subtler, and thus potentially more powerful in terms of fooling your brain into feeling digitally generated sensations.

The tech consists of a “low resolution grid of inexpensive vibrating actuators,” which are essentially the same as the tiny buzzers that inhabit your phone but in this case they’re controlled much more precisely and are distributed across the body–from the back to the palm right down to the sole of the foot, so in some implementations Disney foresees the tech being built into clothing. The researchers have built up clever vibrator actuation algorithms, based on research into “psychophysical modeling of tactile illusions” (excitingly named “cutaneous rabbit illusion,” “funneling illusion” and so on) which tap into the way your nervous system works. The upshot is that when they send the right signals to the vibrators they can generate sensations even on parts of your body where there’s no vibrator and which are precise enough that they can control the movements of where you sense an actuator, how fast it moves and how intensely it “strokes” you.

Generating such real-feeling sensations in a person could be used in all sorts of fields from medicine to gaming. But you can imagine that the tech will definitely find a home in the entertainment business: How intense would your 3-D movie-going experience be if you felt a falling sensation when a James Bond leaps from a plane, or a creepy hand on your neck at the right moment in a horror movie? And let’s not even think about its applications at the hands of a firm like Vivid Video….

Vibrating tech is all over the news at the moment, what with the vibro-glove that’s said to enhance sensation to such superhuman levels it could be useful to surgeons. And we’re left pondering exactly how many more “phantom vibrations” we’ll be feeling in the future if our gaming and movie experiences are vibro-powered.

[Image: Flickr user mahalie]

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