Electric haptic vest makes for shocking VR experiences
The Owo haptic vest provides haptic feedback in VR with electric shocks up to your personal pain threshold.
The haptic vest with sleeves sends electric shocks to the wearer to simulate the feeling of being shot or stabbed in VR games. Gentle sensations such as a breeze or a hug can also be experienced through electrical stimulation. Nine parameters of the pulse wave allow for different sensations. Developers can also create "custom sensations" to integrate into Unreal or Unity projects.
Haptic vest with electrical stimulation
The electrodes are placed in ten positions under the stretchy fabric. The manufacturer, Owo, advertises high conductivity with a resistance of less than 100 ohms. For good skin contact, undershirts are taboo.
"Players can feel the wind while free-falling out of the bus in Fortnite, experience the sensation of being wounded in-game, and the enemy’s nexus explosion when winning in League of Legends," says the startup from Malaga, Spain.
With Fortnite not coming to VR anytime soon, other titles are more exciting for virtual reality enthusiasts. The catalog of natively supported PC VR games with custom "shock effects" is still limited. These include the shooter Crisis VRigade 2, the boxing music game Song Beater, and the action title Drone War.
Among the "semi-native" supported VR games with emulated effects are bigger names. These include the shooters Bonelab and Arizona Sunshine, the rhythm games Beat Saber and Pistol Whip, and the swordfighting game Until You Fall.
Ideal for stabbing pain
To make sure the vest doesn't go limp in the heat of battle, a USB-C charge lasts eight hours, according to the manufacturer. Available in nine sizes, it weighs less than 600 grams and connects wirelessly to the Owo app via Bluetooth 5.2 (BLE).
The app, available for Windows, iOS and Android, was developed in partnership with Overwolf. The platform of the same name integrates and monetizes in-game apps, mods and private servers.
VR analyst Brad Lynch reported after a test session at CES that he found the stabbing sensations to be particularly authentic. Makes you wonder how many times Lynch has been stabbed in real life, but maybe he'll leak it one day.
Appropriately, one demo includes something like a knife that spins after being stabbed in the body. The system is less suited for high-fiving or back-slapping on the social app VRChat, according to Lynch.
VR blogger and developer Antony "Skarredghost" Vitillo says the feel is different from other haptic vests. Not only did he feel a superficial tingling or pain, he said, but the muscles under the skin also contracted.
Owo gets under your skin
The result is that you feel the vibrations not only on your skin, but also in your body. Vitillo calls it a "real torture machine". He calibrated the intensity of the electric shock on a case-by-case basis to find a compromise that wasn't too weak but also didn't always reach the pain threshold, Vitillo says.
Lynch cautioned against setting the intensity of the shock too high: One person told him of a fall after all the electrodes caused simultaneous muscle contractions.
Cleaning and durability could also prove problematic. Gel patches that come in contact with the skin must be removed before they can be rinsed with cold water. Vitillo also reported that the electrodes slipped in his sleeve, which he had to correct after putting them on.
Owo costs 499 euros, but can be purchased at a reduced price of 399 euros if ordered in advance. Alternatively, it can be reserved for 50 euros. Owo is also offering a personalized hexagon design for the first 2,000 vests (no returns). No shipping date has been set yet.
While the Owo vest still requires electrodes, there is already an alternative in the form of haptic gloves: AI Silk's "Haptic Metaverse Glove" sends electrical feedback through coated fibers. The same fabric even tracks finger movements.
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