Disney Research

Disney makes a jacket that gives you a virtual hug

The prototype called Force Jacket could let wearers feel what they're watching at the movies

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Looking to enhance the experience people have at the movies or while playing video games, Disney Research has designed a jacket that can deliver sensations that mirror what you're watching. From a snake squeezing as it slithers across the chest to a snowball hit, the Force Jacket adds haptic feedback — and what Disney believes could make a movie or game that much more engaging.

The jacket works by having 26 air bags woven inside that contract or expand depending on what they're told to do. Compressors are connected to each individual bag, which allows the sensations to be customized from a hug to even watching, and feeling, muscles growing as you become, perhaps, a superhero.

People secure the jacket using Velco, to make sure everything has a snug fit, and the Force Jacket weighs about five pounds — so not extremely heavy, but certainly not something you'll forget you are wearing.

"The creation of immersive virtual and augmented realities relies on engaging all of the senses," writes researchers in their paper. "Although the fields of visual effects and sound effects have long histories and a wide variety of technologies to contribute, the inclusion of haptic feedback in such experiences is an area of recent growth."

Researchers created 14 different sensations in their testing from a bug crawling up an arm, to a child's hug. People rated the motorcycle vibration sensation the highest, with a hand tapping on their shoulder to the feeling of a racing heartbeat among the lowest.

Disney Research worked with MIT Media Lab and Carnegie Melon University to build the prototype. Hollywood is very committed to virtual reality with studios working on VR films, and Hollywood filmmakers, like Steven Spielberg, even investing in VR arcades.

While virtual reality and augmented reality are meant to enhance what people see, some devices let players and viewers also feel what they're watching from haptic gloves to chairs in movie theaters. The Force Jacket would allow entertainment companies to give people even more sensations, potentially delivering a bigger punch to their movie night.

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