Use the force… jacket…

Disney has unveiled its take on haptics, dubbed the Force jacket, it uses clever technology that can simulate anything from being in a fight to having huge muscles. The Force Jacket was created through a collaborative effort between Disney Research and MIT engineers. Read on for a rundown of what the Force jacket can do, and what the company hopes will happen with it.

The Force Jacket

The basic idea behind the Force Jacket was to go beyond the buzzing or prodding of the typical haptic experience. Disney wanted to create a device that was adjustable, capable of fitting almost any body type that would put pressure on 26 separate locations on the upper body. These locations targeted sensory groups to simulate feelings across the body.

Using pneumatically-actuated airbags, sensors work with a software system to precision inflate or deflate small air pockets that line a jacket. The device is a repurposed life vest at its core. It weighs roughly 5 pounds despite packing 10 feet of PVC tubing.

Naturally, The Force branding is very closely related to Star Wars, which makes us wonder if we’ll see these jackets make appearances at the VOID experience. It would be interesting to feel the force flow through you. Set piece experiences are an excellent introduction to the physical nature of VR, and are many people’s first foray into the fitness side of it.

Users sit or stand inside of a simulation that pelts them with snowballs. The airbag precision inflates and deflates to simulate the ball of ice hitting the upper body. In a second experience, a snake crawls across the user’s chest. The final test simulates an increase in body mass, and it makes users feel like they have huge muscles. These tests also looked at differences in intensity, to compare a tap to a punch, for example, to see what the system could do.

Early feedback suggests that while some of the experiences aren’t pleasurable, all of them feel real.

Implications

Will you ever use the Force Jacket?

You will almost certainly use this technology at some point in your life, especially if you travel to Disney theme parks. You might even use it in your home. One of the outlined use cases for this technology was to feel hugs from afar. The device could be paired with a remote communication app like Skype and used to exchange some form of physical contact.

The simulation of a fist fight is also exciting. Boxing games are one of the best ways to get cardio in VR, and the Force Jacket test applications already simulate an experience like the kind we want to see.

The technology also appears to be very cost-effective. The most expensive parts are the pneumatic systems to inflate or deflate, and potential support costs. A scaled version of the Force Jacket might end up in homes, but parks are more than likely first.

The more significant implications are how this design influences others in the market. There will no doubt be consumer experiences that duplicate these feelings in the very near future. In fact, Powerbeats looks quite promising. Disney’s jacket is also highly specialized, so one would think such a device would be paired with software. A Force Jacket that lets you use and feel the force is a pretty neat idea.


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