ARAIG (which stands for As Real As It Gets) is a gaming impact vest designed to immerse you in games with haptic feedback. The unit, which recently took to Kickstarter for funding, could be an excellent addition to any virtual reality setup.
The basic idea of the gaming impact vest is to take rumbling controllers to the next level; rather than just shake your hands, why not shake your whole body? And while you’re at it, why not keep things immersive by shaking the part of your body that corresponds to where you’re in-game character is feeling it?
The gaming impact vest is not a new idea. A company called TN Games has been making one for some time. It houses air bladders which are rapidly inflated with a USB compressor.
The idea may not be brand new, but ARAIG is doing it big. They’ve gone above and beyond previous products with 48 vibrators — covering the front, back, and both sides — and four ‘stims’ (also known as electric muscle stimulation, or EMS): electrodes which rapidly tense your muscles like you may have seen in some contemporary workout devices. The creators of ARAIG note that stims is FDA approved and doesn’t cause pain.
They go one step further by putting a surround sound system directly on the vest.
While some find the inclusion of the speakers odd, I would say it is desirable for using ARAIG in virtual reality — an all encompassing vest means less wires, more portability, and faster setup. In fact, ARAIG would probably work well with something like Project Holodeck which is already using a self-contained backpack system (though the sound engine would need to compensate for player rotation)
As someone who cranks surround sound up to what I liked to call “real-world volume,” and installed a tactile transducer in his couch, I know exactly what ARAIG seeks to deliver, and I want it.
In conjunction with something like the Virtuix Omni and the Oculus Rift, ARAIG could be a vital part of the VR puzzle.
“Haptics are the next step to augment the VR experience even more. We are excited to see ARAIG on Kickstarter and look forward to trying the suit together with the Omni,” said Jan Geotgeluk, CEO of Virtuix.
The creators of ARAIG say that the unit is multi-platform and will “work at a fundamental level for all games already outputting vibration feedback and sound from the game.”
Similar to the Omni, it’s possible to map existing game queues to ARAIG, but the best experiences will need some custom attention with an SDK that the company will make available.
It’s one thing for your controller to shake when firing an M1 Abrams tank in Battlefield 3 — it’s something entirely different to feel the rumble on your back as you drive it and have your entire body shake when firing. Outside of a tank, nearby explosions and small arms fire could be amazingly intense. Even shooting your own gun while shouldered could rumble your real shoulder and add to the immersion. All of this would rely on custom implementation, but it could be done.
The ARAIG Kickstarter offers up some interesting possibilities for custom game integration:
Think of the different ways this would feel if you were hit by a single bullet from a sniper rifle, multiple bullets from an SMG or just the feeling of driving in a tank or vehicle. Furthermore, by creating total coverage it gives developers the ability to alter the sensations that particular actions or weapons will create in their games. For example a high powered sniper rifle might create a very strong impact at one location; a plasma rifle might create an average impact at a particular location and then spread out across the body; a weapon might have a poisonous effect which slowly moves from one location of the body to the next and if you don’t stop it in time it could kill you; and even depending on health or shields in the game at a particular time the intensity may be more or less to let you know whether it just ricocheted off your armour or pierced through and hit something more vital. Thus the vibratory sensations that ARAIG provides allows for complete coverage of sensations across the torso and upper arms to allow for a vast amount of sensations for developers to use to differentiate their products.
Tough spots for the ARAIG will definitely be developer support and price.
So far it looks like they’ve got a functioning prototype, but we’ve yet to see a demo of the unit played with a real game.
ARAIG Kickstarter prices started at $299 for early birds, and scale up in tiers from there. The creators are looking for a lofty $900,000 goal which won’t be reached until around 2535 ARAIGs are ordered. They expect the earliest units to be delivered more than a year from now, in December 2014.
After the Kickstarter, the company says that that price will go up to $499.
Price aside, I’d personally love to see ARAIG happen and think it could add massively to VR immersion, but it won’t get there without our support.