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Teslasuit lets virtual reality reach out and touch you

Virtual reality is a feast for the eyes and ears, but what about the rest of your body? The Tesla Suit is an effort to more fully immerse people in virtual environments by providing (almost) every inch of your body haptic feedback.

The suit uses an “electro-tactile haptic feedback system” to really put you inside the games you’re playing. It’s currently being demonstrated with a virtual paintball game. If you’re shot in the game, you won’t just see where the paintball hit you. You feel where it hit you.

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But this goes beyond just getting shot. In theory, you’ll be able to feel when you bump into walls, or reach out to touch something in-game.

“Our electro-tactile haptic feedback system gives you the ability to touch and feel objects inside the virtual world,” says the project’s Kickstarter page.

The haptic feedback system, which stimulates your nerves directly with electricity so you can “feel” things in the virtual environment, is already common in the world of physical therapy. It’s likely the suit could be useful in those contexts, but for now the marketing seems focused squarely on the virtual reality market.

It’s fascinating to see in action. The above video shows one person scratching another person’s back from across the room using a tablet, a perfect example of the kinds of interactions suites like these could make possible over long distance.

But experiences like these won’t come cheap. Kickstarter supporters can get one of two suits: the Prodigy, with 52 channels, or the Pioneer, with 16. The more basic Pioneer requires a $1,100 contribution, while the tricked-out Prodigy will cost you around $3,100 (the original prices are in British Pounds).

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At those kind of prices, this isn’t meant to be a general consumer product right now. Then again, it’s very early in the life-cycle of such technology. Full body haptic feedback is one of the missing links between virtual reality as we know it today and a completely immersive “holodeck” experience, so we doubt the company we have trouble finding VR pioneers willing to pony up the cash.