If having your vision completely immersed into a virtual world wasn’t enough of an experience, how about adding some vibration to make it seem more realistic. Physicist Shahriar Afshar thinks the next step to improving virtual reality is to include vibration, as sounds are created from the energy of vibrations.
[Image Source: KOR-FX]
If you place your hand at the top of your chest and speak you will feel the vibrations produced by your vocal cords. Afshar has created a vest called KOR-FX that mimicks this; plug it into an audio jack and it will turn sound into chest-rumbling vibrations.
Virtual reality gadgets normally focus on the visual aspect of creating a believable digital world (think Oculus Rift), but others feel that we need to apply the same focus to all of our senses in order to make video games, movies and music more immersive, emotional experiences.
The $150 KOR-FX feeds sound to the two transducers on the front of the vest. Regular sounds are translated into vibrations that are felt directly on the body. It’s the same thrill you get in a movie theater when the bass is so strong it shakes your seat, but it uses less power and is portable.
Imagine watching your favorite artist live in concert through a virtual reality headset where it feels as though the bass is tearing through your body, but without the need for ridiculously loud music. Or playing a first person shooter where the shots fired behind you can be sensed through vibration as well as 3D audio.
The vibrations act to trick the brain.
“The brain thinks, my goodness, all the stuff that’s happening is so significant and the audio is so huge that it’s vibrating my chest,” said Afshar.
Afshar’s company, Immerz Inc., is focusing on the video game market for starters since the audio on many big budget games is outstanding. Gamers are early adopters and have already proven they care about immersion.
Afshar isn’t a gamer himself however. He came up with the idea while staying at a university dorm where students had cranked the volume of their video game in order to immerse themselves more.
“I thought, ‘They’re enjoying something in the bass, go about it as a scientist,’” said Afshar, who also has a background in neuroscience.
After much research Afshar launched a Kickstarter campaign which raised $183,000 (more than twice its goal) in July. The product became available in November and is available online. The next step is to make the vest open and available for developers to come up with other uses and ideas for the vest.