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Get a Virtual-Reality Punch, Feel Real Impact

November 10, 2015 | Telepresence Options

Thumbnail image for Impacto_armband.jpg

Story and images by John Pavlus / MIT Technology Review

Researchers in Germany have developed technology for an armband that lets you feel impact from virtual interactions.

Imagine playing a virtual-reality boxing game, complete with a menacing opponent aiming a haymaker at your head. You get your gloves up in time to block the punch, but you feel no impact when it hits, breaking the otherwise immersive experience.

Impacto, a prototype developed by researchers in the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) lab at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany, sidesteps this deficit in mainstream VR experiences. The technology consists of an armband that combines basic haptic feedback (a tap or vibration on the skin) with electrical muscle stimulation to push or pull the user's limb in a way that convincingly simulates a physical impact.

"It's kind of an illusion," says Patrick Baudisch, who leads the HCI lab. "We want the user wearing a VR headset to believe that he was really hit by something."

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