I finally got to try a full-body haptic suit in VR, and my regular old one MetaQuest 2 †formerly Oculus Quest 2) just isn’t good enough anymore.
During the Future Lab exhibition at the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2022 in the UK, I had the chance to demonstrate a demo tesla suita full-body haptic suit that allowed me to feel digital experiences.
It did this by using electrodes spread over 90 different parts of my body. My core, back, legs and arms all had different electrodes, although none, at least in the current iteration, were against my chest. The electrodes were placed against my bare skin and delivered shocks to my muscles that ranged from 1mA to 60mA, based on user-configurable settings.
By firing signals at different frequencies and intensities, these electrodes were used to simulate a range of real-life feelings and sensations based on what was happening to my digital avatar. I felt the rain fall on my body, a sandstorm raging past me and recoiling from firearms as I hit targets in a virtual firing range.
True, the sensations were not always perfectly imitated. Unlike real rain, the simulated stuff had this static, electrical nature, but when combined with VR footage, it was completely believable.
This was especially true of my favorite and by far the most immersive experience that turned me into Lewis Hamilton – the Sevenfold champion F1 racer† What’s more, this was one I didn’t even wear VR headsetjust looking at a TV screen.
Using actual data collected from Hamilton’s races, the haptic suit I wore was able to mimic the feeling of G-force he experiences while driving around a track at top speed. Electrical pulses shot into my arms and core, making my muscles feel heavier, and I believed my body was being thrown about by the acceleration and deceleration caused by a moving race car.
Even though driving in virtual reality makes me dizzy, I’d like to try it with the Teslasuit on. I am convinced that these realistic sensations can keep my motion sickness at bay, although unfortunately I will have to wait a while to test my theory.
That’s because the current device is pretty high-end — it doesn’t just include haptic feedback, but includes full-body motion tracking and biometric systems that drive up costs. Speaking to the team at the exhibit, I found that what I tested is not the kind of suit someone would leave lying around at home, it’s a premium model designed for the training of elite athletes and for patients undergoing medical rehabilitation. .
But while they don’t offer anything more customer-friendly yet, the team’s dream is to create haptic suits that appeal to the masses. According to CEO Sergei Nossoff, that only takes a little more time.
The team will also need that time to convince people that haptic suits are the next big step because, admittedly, they’re pretty daunting.
Even though I knew the suit was calibrated in such a way that it couldn’t hurt me in any way, I was terrified at the VR shooting range. The firearms were fine but the table covered in virtual grenades was like a scene from a… VR horror game – I was afraid they would almost explode in my face if I got closer.
But much like playing paintball in real life after the first hit—or in my case a flipped pitch where a grenade exploded at my feet—I found it hurts a lot less than you’d expect.
If you get the chance to try out a haptic suit for yourself, I definitely recommend that you overcome your fears and get one. After my experience with the Teslasuit, I’m confident this will be the next VR revolution and can’t wait to get one for my own home use.
But until then I’ll have to settle for my less compelling Quest 2 headphones.