Researchers from the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) lab at Germany’s Hasso Plattner Institute are experimenting with prototypes of "Impacto", a new kind of wearable device that enables users to feel objects in virtual reality. The device features a haptic vibration engine and electrical muscle simulation to actually create a sensation of pushing or pulling, to a certain extent.
For example, in a boxing game it enables you to feel the impact from blocked punches on your arm, and in a soccer game you can feel each strike on your foot. At present the prototypes are still fairly large, future versions should be smaller and may eventually be incorporated in a suit of sorts that gives users multiple contact points to enhance the VR experience.
“The key idea that allows the small and light impacto device to simulate a strong hit is that it decomposes the stimulus: it renders the tactile aspect of being hit by tapping the skin using a solenoid; it adds impact to the hit by thrusting the user’s arm backwards using electrical muscle stimulation,” the team, led by Pedro Lopes, said in an abstract covering its research paper on Impacto. “The device is self-contained, wireless, and small enough for wearable use, thus leaves the user unencumbered and able to walk around freely in a virtual environment. The device is of generic shape, allowing it to also be worn on legs, so as to enhance the experience of kicking, or merged into props, such as a baseball bat.”