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Nullspace VR wants you to reach out and touch someone, virtually

While the rest of us are gearing up to immerse ourselves in the visually impressive world of the Rift and HTC Vive, three engineers from the University of Rochester are hard at work preparing the next step in virtual reality interaction¬†– haptic feedback. Just imagine it. The feel the weight of the flight controls in your hands, the breath of a monster behind you, or the ticking of gunfire against your chest. The goal is to add another element of realism to VR gaming, and it’s not far from becoming a reality.

The 3D printed protoypes seen on the Nullspace VR site have come a long way from what one of the creators, Lucian Copeland, describes as “a bunch of students with overloaded course, putting together suits made of duct tape and plywood…spending hours trying to make it work by reaching out and touching a virtual box.”

Related: This glove uses air to let you feel digital objects in virtual reality

In fact, in just two years the project has gone from pipe dream to reality, and now Nullspace VR is planning to launch the first developer kits to partners in January of 2016. The new kit is more like a suit of high-tech armor than some of the other options out there, and covers both the hands and the body. It does so naturally, without stripping down to spandex or coating your skin in gel.

“As far as our suit goes, you just put it on over what you’re wearing.” Copeland continues, “It looks cool, like a piece of armor — we want people to feel empowered wearing it, not embarrassed.” If they succeed in doing so, it will be the least embarrassing aspect of VR gaming, as anyone whose been around people wearing a headset can tell you.

Nullspace VR isn’t the only group on the block working on this type of project, but their trajectory as a concept has a bit more longevity than some of the other options, which err closer to proof of concept.