This week, researchers from Philips Electronics are going to present a jacket that purportedly lets people feel movies. The jacket is lined with vibration motors, and at first will be used to study the effects of touch on a movie viewer’s emotional response to what is being experienced on the big screen. Paul Lemmens, a Philips senior scientist, says that:
“We want people to feel Bruce Lee’s anxiety about whether he will get out alive.”
The jacket works by having 64 actuators distributed across the arms and torso, and matching pants are in the works. By responding to signals encoded in a DVD or some other program, the jacket can make “a shiver to go up the viewer’s spine and creating the feeling of tension in the limbs,” confirms Lemmens.
So will we be able to feel Bruce Lee’s punches and kicks? Probably not, for now. The actuators are meant to produce more subtle effects, and the aim of the whole project is to study human emotional immersion. Lemmons explains that “people don’t realize how sensitive we are to touch, although it is the first sense that fetuses develop in the womb.”
The actuators are also very efficient; the jacket could operate for an hour on its two AA batteries even if it was using 20 of the motors simultaneously. The new technology definitely represents a huge step in human interaction with media, be it games, movies or music.
How will “feeling” media augment our experiences? Will it be better than what we know today? Will it be creepy?