The Metaverse is considered one of the topics of conversation amongst many tech enthusiasts today. The metaverse is a vision for a new place to interact with other humans, play games, conduct business, socialize, shop and other opportunities the virtual world presents. While it remains the next trend, the majority of the big tech companies around the globe are already strategizing on having a stake in it. While a lot is still considering it’s not viable, the possibility of it changing the world steers at us in the face, and as a result, we see new innovations that support the metaverse keep emerging daily. These inventions keep grabbing the attention of the world into believing the fact that truly the metaverse does exist and it’s a big deal.
In this article, we would be discussing the Teslasuit DK1 meant for simulating VR. It is gathered that this bodysuit is capable of letting you feel the pain and pleasure as it takes place around you while you journey into VR. No relation or affiliation to the electric car company Tesla at the time of writing this article. The suit has 68 haptic points capable of simulating a range of physical sensations all over your body. Looking like that bodysuit you’ll find on a biker, the VR suit is a skin-tight suit embedded with wires. According to research, the suit is considered to share similarities with those worn in a 2018 science fiction film (Ready Player One) — where a number of humans spend escape the real world into the virtual world. The suit is the result of a partnership between Teslasuit and Somnium Space, a social VR platform that uses blockchain technology. Asides from haptic feedback, the suit features motion tracking to map your movements in VR without any other sensors or wearables, and biometric data capture as well as a climate control system.
In a public demonstration wearing the suit earlier in 2021 at the SingularityU Summit, held in Sydney reported by ABC News, a man (Mr Orr) is seen with a VR headset strapped across his eyes, he enters a game of computer dodgeball — but something different from the regular VR demonstration we see is that here his body can feel the impact of what he sees or touches him. Meanwhile, as the audience were busy watching the game from his perspective, on a big screen projected above his head. The man on stage is seen ducking and weaving to avoid the virtual missiles being thrown at him by the virtual opponent, the audience sees him even wincing as they strike his legs and arms. It was observed that each time the man’s avatar was hit, the suit he was strapped in delivered a carefully engineered pulse of electrical current to the equivalent area of his body.
According to Mr Orr while revealing his experience to the audience as he gets hit said that “I felt that one.” This virtual reality displays revealed that he felt the pain while still active in his virtual world. The suit delivered to his physical body a simulating touch, a technology that is now referred to as “haptic feedback”. This feedback is delivered via a fine web of electrodes arrayed over the body in varying amplitude, frequency, and amperage. A technologically designed suit such as is capable of giving the wearer a long list of different sensations, called “haptic animations”. While the VR headset provides a realistic simulation of the world through sight and sounds, the full-body haptic feedback suit does the same by providing a simulation of the world through touch and sensation — hot and cold, rough and smooth, pleasure and pain or at least the idea.
Suits like this may not be designed for the mainstream for now or let’s say they are yet to reach the mainstream as you’ll agree they are rarely seen in public. Many of such inventions are still tucked away in research labs, waiting for R&D, testing and fine-tuning their haptic feedback advantages to simulate anything from a warm hug to the impact of a bullet to the chest or maybe carrying something heavy. The Teslasuit is said to be named after the Belarus-based start-up that created it. Teslasuit is one of a handful of companies dedicated to seeing the technology of VR succeed as it looks like a suitable match for the future of the metaverse. The company has also given VirtuReal access to a suit in order to develop applications for its use — just the same way you’ll find phone companies around release its hardware in advance, for the purpose of having software developers invent apps that match.
According to Mr Orr, the haptic animations when turned up to its highest intensity setting, the suit is capable of delivering a shock powerful enough to make muscles involuntarily contract while at its lowest setting, it can simulate cuddles. He explains that “Say we were in a [virtual] boxing arena and we were playing together and you punched me in the stomach; that can actually cause all my stomach muscles to activate, as though I’d actually been punched,” Mr Orr assured the suit “is not meant to cause pain or injury but it can cause varying levels of those deep impacts and discomfort at times.”
VirtuReal is also developing haptic feedback virtual simulations which are intended to train “first responder personnel”, such as police or military. Although gaming is an obvious application for the suit, Somnium Space says how it can be used across a number of industry sectors, such as training first responders and pilots. The co-founder of this technology, Dimitri Mikhalchuk, disclosed about training firefighters and a project with Volvo. At the 2021 summit Mikhalchuk reveals that “We’re merging the human body with the digital interface,” Volvo engineers working on self-driving cars are wearing Teslasuits in their driving simulators. He added that for now, the technology appears too expensive to go mainstream.
According to Ross Smith, Director of the Wearable Computer Laboratory at the University of South Australia, the full-body haptic feedback suits are just one of the numerous haptic technologies being developed to take the virtual world to another level. He says that “For a long time we’ve been inspired by this idea of being able to touch and feel things in VR.” For now, the use of haptic feedback technology is limited to gaming and training, but who knows we may see the future of this fantastic technology being added to everyday clothing, says Dr Smith.
One early use of haptics in which most of us in the world would be quite familiar with is the vibration of your phone when you receive a call or message. No doubt the Teslasuit technology brings an extra dimension of reality to us. Mr Orr agrees that the Teslasuit technology can be brought into everyday clothing “eventually”. Dr Smith describes using the Teslasuit technology as everyday clothing saying “It’ll just be like putting on a watch at the beginning of your day, you put it on and you forget it’s even there.” He added that although the everyday use of haptic technology is not yet obvious, however, the haptic feedback gloves could be considered for everyday use as it can accurately simulate touch and could be very useful for medical training or remote surgery.
According to Dr Smith who in collaboration with others have developed a glove that simulates friction in VR environments reveals an interesting fact researchers have discovered while developing this technology – the simulation of touch doesn’t have to be 100 per cent. He says that “It doesn’t have to be perfect to deliver usable sensations. The brain fills in a lot of those gaps.”
Meanwhile, the organisers of SingularityU Summit in 2021 revealed an ambitious plan to deliver a VR glove to the International Space Station. The organizer’s ambition is to see an astronaut in orbit “shake hands” with someone down on Earth through VR. SingularityU co-CEO Christina Gerakiteys said this may take place in 2022, she told the audience at 2021 submit that “It’s all about trying to naturally immerse the individual in virtual reality, I can hand you a pen and you can reach out and grab that pen.”