The Impacto – Feel the virtual punch
Have you ever played a boxing game and felt like something was missing? The raw, visceral feeling of being hit or blocking the punch of your opponent – that sensation seemed like it could never be experienced by the gamer, except through going up against pugulists in real boxing rings or engaging in regular bar fights. Along came the VR headsets that promise to visually immerse us in a virtual world that many have been clamouring for. Yet something has been missing: the tactile sensation when one hits something as one would experience in the real world. Enter “The Impacto”. Yes I know the name sounds a bit silly but let me elaborate on its applications.
The Impacto is a device that can simulate the impact that one would feel when an object strikes you or when you strike an object or person in the game.
If you are playing a boxing game and are wearing the Impacto you could feel the impact of your opponent punches when you block or the force of the impact you would deliver onto him when you strike him with your fists. But it gets better. It has applications not only in boxing games but in other types of games as well.
If you wear it on your legs and you kick a ball, you could feel the force of the impact of your leg striking the ball on your calf muscles and on your feel as well. It has far reaching applications which is what is so exciting about it.
So how does it work? It has a solenoid that produces an electrical impulse that is delivered to the muscles onto which the electrodes have been attached. Once the impulse reaches those muscles, it causes them to flex in much the same way as they would do if they were actually doing the activity that they is being simulated in the game which gives the wearer the sensation of actually having performed the action that he has just experienced. This does add a new layer to the Virtual experience by including the other senses that one has into the equation.
I, for one, approve of this. It is at present part of a research project but I guess it will soon be available in different forms. Who knows where things will go from here…
The full paper detailing the specifics of the Impacto, its design, mechanics and applications can be found here:
Lopes, P., Ion, A., Baudisch, P.
“Impacto: Simulating Physical Impact by Combining Tactile Stimulation with Electrical Muscle Stimulation”. In Proc. UIST’15.