Disney and MIT made a jacket that mimics feeling of snakes slithering on you

As amazing as VR headsets are, haptic technology offers a way to make virtual reality seem even more real. With that in mind, investigators from Disney Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, and Carnegie Mellon University need to step forward and take a bow for their new proof-of-concept “Force Jacket.”

Resembling a life vest, the jacket is lined with airbags which can either inflate or deflate on command. By doing this, it is possible to accurately mimic sensations including (but not limited to) racing heartbeats, a tap on the shoulder, the impact of a snowball, the vibrations of a motorbike, or slime dripping down a person’s back. In other words, this is probably not the best jacket to wear to your next high pressure job interview!

“Force Jacket can enrich narrative embodied experiences — [such as] VR or AR — by providing variable force feedback on targeted locations on the upper body,” Ken Nakagaki, a Ph.D. candidate in the Tangible Media Group at MIT Media Lab, told Digital Trends. “The Force Jacket can create variety of haptic effects such as a hug, punch, or even a snake slithering around your body. [It] consists of 26 inflatable airbags, with force-sensitive registers placed on individual bags for tracking the force applied to the body as the bags [are] being inflated and deflated. Studies in our paper include development of a software ‘Haptic Effect Editor’ to design hundreds of haptic effects with the jacket, and a user study which evaluated 14 haptic effects generated by the software.”

With Disney involved, we wouldn’t be surprised to find the jacket incorporated into one or more of its theme park experiences. However, Nakagaki speculated that, in addition to VR, the technology could also be useful for rehabilitation or training, or to help blind or partially sighted people navigate better by conveying spatial information around the body via haptic feedback.

In the future, the team hopes to make the jacket more compact and mobile while improving the haptic technology. “As it is exciting to imagine what other haptic effects can be created with this type of jacket, I think another future work could be letting other people use our Haptic Effect Editor to expand the library of haptic effects,” Nakagaki said.

A paper describing the work is available to read online. It will be presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems later this year.

Emerging Tech

NASA is building an inflatable space robot named King Louie

NASA is funding an inflatable robot called King Louie which could travel to the stars in deflated form and then be blown up when and where required. Here is why that's so exciting.
Cars

The VR goggles you wear to shoot alien ships is helping Magna design car parts

Canadian automotive supplier Magna has started using virtual reality in its research and development department. The technology helps engineers get a better view of what they're working on, whether it's an interior part or a powertrain.
Movies & TV

Two Toy Story spinoffs schedule playdates with the Disney Plus streaming service

Disney's direct-to-consumer streaming video service Disney Plus will launch with an impressive catalog of classic content, new projects, and original shows and movies. Here is everything confirmed and rumored to be coming to the platform.
Emerging Tech

How MIT hacked horticulture to cultivate a hyper-flavorful basil plant

At MIT, Caleb Harper used his personal food computers to alter the climate in which he grew basil. Exposing it light for 24 hours a day changed the flavor profile of the plant, making it spicier and stronger.
Smart Home

I have seen the future, and it’s full of salad-making robots

Think that robots bussing tables, tossing salads and baking bread is a futuristic concept? It's actually not as far away as you might think. Robots took center stage at a food robotics summit in San Francisco this week, where they showed…
Emerging Tech

U.S. police are testing out Batman-style bola guns to catch criminals

U.S. police are taking a page out of Batman’s playbook with a new grappling hook gun, called the BolaWrap, which fires out a kevlar cord able to tie up assailants in the blink of an eye.
Emerging Tech

Meet the gene-edited bacteria that could make cannabis plants obsolete

Ever wanted to brew cannabis like you brew craft beer? At UC Berkeley, biologists have managed to engineer brewer’s yeast so that it produces the main cannabinoids found in marijuana.
Emerging Tech

U.S., U.K. embrace autonomous robot spy subs that can stay at sea for months

Unmanned, autonomous robot spy submarines that are able to stay at sea for months at a time may be coming to both the United States and its ally across the pond, the U.K. Here's what we know so far.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Facebook data security, Ubisoft helps Notre Dame, and more

Join DT Live as we discuss Facebook security issues, Ubisoft's plan to help rebuild Notre Dame, and more. We are also joined by Emily Teteut of Snap the Gap, Jennifer Sendrow of New York Public Radio, and DJ and producer Zeke Thomas.
Emerging Tech

Planet-hunting satellite discovers its first Earth-sized planet

NASA's planet hunting satellite, TESS, has made a new discovery. Last month the satellite discovered its first exoplanet. And now it has achieved another milestone, locating its first Earth-sized planet and a larger sibling planet.
Emerging Tech

Resupply mission carries 7,600 pounds of scientific equipment to ISS

The Cygnus spacecraft has rendezvoused with the International Space Station as part of a months-long resupply mission. The craft will remain docked until July 23, while the crew take in the 7,600 pounds of research equipment it carried.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers surprised to find deep lakes of methane on Titan

In the two years since the Cassini probe burned up in Saturn's rings, data from its recordings is still being analyzed. The latest research has shown that Saturn's largest moon, Titan, hosts deep liquid lakes of methane on its surface.
Emerging Tech

Happy birthday, Hubble! Telescope celebrates with image of Southern Crab Nebula

In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into low Earth orbit, where it has remained for nearly three decades collecting information about deep space. To celebrate its birthday, Hubble imaged the beautiful Southern Crab Nebula.
Emerging Tech

Star gives off superflare equal to 80 billion megatonnes of TNT. That’s a lot

A tiny star the size of Jupiter has been observed giving off a massive superflare 10 times more powerful than any flare from our Sun. The findings are raising questions about how much energy small stars can hold.