Full-Body Haptic Suits

Full-body haptic feedback suits. They’re coming — the question is, what will we use them for? The best paper on the topic appears to be this one. Interesting fact — the human body’s pressure sensors responsible for deep pressure touch, Pacinian corpuscles, can’t even tell the difference between pressure and suction, so one can simulate touch simply by using tiny vacuums. Alternatively, miniature actuators could push downwards to create the sensation conventionally. Another, somewhat more advanced way to implement full-body haptics would just be to jack into the brain directly, though I think it could be difficult to justify brain surgery for recreational purposes in the near-term future.

The point of full-body haptic feedback is that it allows virtual communication of touch. I push you in an online game, and you actually feel like you get pushed. To help with the immersion, it would likely be accompanied by convincing VR goggles. We can expect VR goggles before full-body haptic suits because the former is technologically easier. I predict that convincing haptic suits will arrive by 2020.

One of the first applications for such suits will of course be sex. Cybersex with both other humans and NPCs. Will the “haptic resolution” around the groin area be enough? What about moisture? I think that engineers, in their infinite ingenuity, will likely figure these things out. More realistic cybersex with NPCs will mean that people will be less inclined to get boyfriends and girlfriend IRL. How much less inclined? Don’t know, but it’s worth thinking about.

Because the sensors would only stimulate the very surface, and not go in deep, women could have problems with enjoying the virtual sex. Some sort of teledildonics add-on would be necessary, possibly with lube secretions. I’ll leave the details to your imagination.

Masseuses might get more business, although the lack of deep stimulation could make it hard to give a convincing massage. Acupressure would be another app. Of course, virtual sports would become much more exciting, although you’d have to stay within a bounded area so you don’t accidentally run into a wall.

Perhaps the most interesting application in sports would be for virtual fighting — protected from any serious harm by a haptic suit that serves as the intermediary, novices in martial arts could fight experts without requiring a trip to the hospital afterwards. There could even be “difficulty settings”, giving experts a harder whack from a weaker punch. The right little girl could even defeat her own father or another adult male, given the right calibrations. Fights could even include “magic”, force projections based on hand gestures or similar.

The suit would also enable touch sensations impossible in real world environments. For instance, waves of touch going from head to toe. Hood attachments would let the user feel sensations like wind on the face, although some might feel squirmy wearing a full-body suit that covers their head. The more advanced versions, which would probably require molecular manufacturing to make, could even generate heat or cold. It’s likely that VR world designers will come up with fascinating new touch sensations we can’t imagine here in 2007.

Full-body haptic suits could revolutionize military training, as well as many trades. Want to learn how to be a blacksmith? A virtual agent could likely teach you. The availability of such suits would revolutionize education and entertainment in general, allowing people to “experience” digging for fossils, flying an F-22 (minus g forces), fighting with swords, visiting an “exhibition of touch sensations”, etc.

More mundanely than full-body haptic feedback, “haptic datagloves” would also provide a way of telling the computer where your body is in space, allowing that positioning to be reflected in the virtual environment. This could do wonders for making users feel like they’re actually “being there” in the VR environment.

Haptic suits could improve communication for the deaf. In real life, they could be using sign language, while in the sim an artificial voice could provide the appearance of speech. This could allow the person to communicate with a listener via sign language even if they don’t understand sign language per se.

Can you think of any other possible applications for this technology?

Comments

  1. michael vassar

    I’m thinking that internal muscular stimulators for moving people into martial arts moves, yoga positions, dance moves, letters in novel languages, better body language, etc would be very high value. Much more speculatively, I can even imagine teaching infants to talk at an earlier age through stimulation based training to tongue and lips.

  2. Warren Bonesteel

    An intuitive interface w/computers and 3D augmented reality, etc.

    Applications in gaming, science, security, physics, medicine, cosmology, architecture, aviation, space, training and education in almost any discipline, historical and archaeological recreation, anthropology, zoology academic research. The possibilities are almost endless.

  3. It will happen long before 2020, and we’ll be the ones doing it.

  4. The Immersion’s CyberGrasp (http://www.immersion.com/3d/products/cyber_grasp.php) already has force-feedback for your hand and each fingers.
    The A.R.T FingerTracking (http://cb.nowan.net/blog/2007/07/20/iptegve-2007-hardware/) has an add-on for fingertips sensations that’s really nice although limited for the moment.

  5. ADBatstone

    “It will happen long before 2020, and we’ll be the ones doing it.”

    It won’t. It’ll be more like 2075. 2020 sounds like fantastic Kurzweilian nonsense to me. I don’t know how people can take this Singularity theory seriously. Technological acceleration does not move along a smooth exponential curve, it starts, stops, starts, plateaus, stops and starts again.

  6. There is already haptic feedback for the hands, but I doubt it is fine-grained enough to feel very realistic. Anyway, is a full-body haptic suit really all that futuristic? 2075 is ridiculous. I think you’re just being contrarian because the title of this blog makes you think I’m thoroughly Kurzweilian, and you want to whine about it.

    • imran

      Hello,
      I was learning about hap tic suits, and happened to go through this page. Could you please give me some information on how far has the hap tic technology succeeded in designing the full body suit.

      Thankyou
      Imran

  7. Hawkeye

    Haptics is a field that is picking up in consumer electronics. I’d call it “narrow haptics” right now. “General haptics” is going to take some time to get right. It isn’t anything like the narrow AI to general AI you talk about though.

    That said, there is something like the uncanny valley that animatronics/robotics faces here. It is highly subjective and I would suspect it is likely to vary quite a bit among the general population. It is tough to get it right. Though the user interface is quite often the difference maker in consumer electronics anyway so perhaps this is simply an extrapolation of an existing “known” challenge.

  8. Hawkeye

    “It isn’t anything like the narrow AI to general AI you talk about though.”

    I meant here that the gap isn’t as obviously wide between narrow and general for haptics as it appears to be for AI.

  9. Heather

    “More realistic cybersex with NPCs will mean that people will be less inclined to get boyfriends and girlfriend IRL. How much less inclined? Don’t know, but it’s worth thinking about.”

    Haven’t you ever seen Demolition Man? Nothing beats real interaction.

  10. If nothing beats real interaction then why do people routinely have girlfriends and boyfriends in online worlds, as I grew up doing?

  11. MCP2012

    Sensorily-sophisticated haptic (as well as other sensory modalities) VR should be available *fairly* inexpensively by approx. 2020 (+/- 3 yrs). *Might* be as early as 2013ish, but don’t hold your breath… ;)

    AdBatstone, why the ultra-conservatism?! There’s already a hard-push going on for this sort-of thing…!!…

    As for uses, it will be an excellent training augement for sports and martial arts, amongst other things…

    Ciao…

  12. My immediate thought is a haptic representation of spatial information. Slight pressure on the body relating to objects around the user in space. The closer the object, the greater the pressure. It would incredibly enhance the blind’s ability to navigate the world.

  13. Jon

    Video conferencing has so far turned out to be too weak. Seeing another board room in another city once in a while does not seem to be enough to build a working team. These haptic suits could allow us to work in the same virtual office, with people rotated among desks as different pair need to work together. And I could tap someone on the shoulder if I need to work with them. Directional sound would also be helpful.

  14. The disasterous consequences of cybersex with NPCs is dramatized in the following video clip:

    http://www.spikedhumor.com/articles/121284/Futurama_I_Dated_a_Robot.html

  15. Some sort of teledildonics add-on would be necessary, possibly with lube secretions.

    Beautiful.

  16. We could use it to simulate waterboarding! Maybe then it wouldn’t actually be considered torture. After all, it’s only simulated torture.

    Of course, waterboarding is only simulated drowining, so haptic waterboarding would be simulated simulated drwoning.

    To say nothing of the fact that the included photo bears a strong resemblance to a wetsuit.

    /snark

  17. Mostly protein

    “Some sort of teledildonics add-on would be necessary, possibly with lube secretions.”

    “Beautiful.”

    Beautiful? I’m sure we can all agree that lube secreting teledildonics is nothing short of visionary.

    Now my eyes have finally opened. I see a brighter, new future, a future worth striving for – a teledildonized future.

    Teledildonics without lube secretions? Are you kidding me? It would definitely be necessary since not all of my local interface ports are compatible with non-lube secreting teledildonics and port upgrades are nowhere in sight.

    Teledildonics(tm) – Now with Extra Plentiful Lube Secretions – Soon in Your Local Interface Port.

    Teledildonics is a trademark of Anissimov Dildonics Industries, Inc.

  18. Perla

    it sounds beautifull for many people, for most people i guess; but for me this type of stuff have two sides, it can help while it can harm the life of many, as increasing the selfish way of our life system, more division and lonely people, getting always everything their own way, we live already on a society of selfiness. tecnology is going up, and values are going down big time, it won’t make our life any better in some way, just more selfishness, just thinking about the vanity of menkind, we had discover a lot of things and we are full of knowlege, but many are getting more selfish and independet that noone thinks about others anymore; it will help for some useful things, but mostly it will just increace the selfiness of this world and make people more materialistic without concience and with a metal heart. for me, nothing like a such of invention can help us to make our life system better, it just will bring new social problems in a differnt way. but nothing will be any better. money makers on a metal world with lost values. it will be fun, but it is nothing more than an empty world of vanity. i really prefer the old ways to interac with other people, by respecting each other and be more open, if all of us would be more open and kind to each other this world will be more amazing than anything, and our needs would be all satisfy. love makes the diference and it isn’t at the store and it don’t need a computer to really enjoy it and live it, nothing is more beautiful and real than what Jehovah God had create and nothing can replace his glory and enjoyable life anything is a better and perfect link for us with others than love. no even ciber adventures ca replace this. metal men, that is our future on this patetic world full of sopysticated lies.
    too bad that money is more important for our society than love. this is ridiculuse, machines repacing people and even love.

  19. Khannea Suntzu

    Perla, you are whining. Go make the rounds of allegedly moral victorian values, on street level. Do the same in any allegedly moral muslim country. Morals abound there, they are screamed from the minarets as women walked with blackened-bruised eyes, heads cast down.

    Your rant is typical of someone with no historical perspective. You might not like certain aspects of this society, from a safe cushioned middle class perspective, because you have been indoctrinated by outdated values. Blinded by outdated values no less. The only values I see and value are choice, freedom, wealth and intelligence (quality). If we have enough of those people will act in ways the previous generation might come to regard as “degenerate”.

    But we will heal that too – the previous generation is sick. It is old and has a damaged brain because of the aging. They have become inflexible.

    Love it isn’t money which is replacing love – it is a LACK of money, people having to compete over scarcity. Give them choice, give them freedom, give them quality, give them wealth and give them intelligence and *oy boy* you will see fountains of a love you can scarcely imagine today.

    In other words: do not confuse our paternalist, authority drive, scarcity-inundated, competetive society to be the end all of things. It is a painful transition to (maybe) something more beautiful.

    Whom can I love when I have a choice to love anyone in the world, in a beautiful and ecstatic manner?

  20. Does anyone know where that suit picture is from? (like, what web page?)

  21. Angelhands

    Finally, I found you guys! I had read something in OMNI magazine about tactile stimulation over distances back in the late eighties and the concept was fascinating(and visionary I might add). Over the years and through the changes I came across the term “haptics” and here we are at last. Yes, it’s going to happen and soon in one functional form or another-massage will blow up over the internet, That is the future of Body Work. Surgically implanted ports to the brain will be available as soon as they are safe and financially accessible believe me. Everybody wil have something to do – Bio-ethicists, law-enforcement, porno, religion, politicians, health…everybody! Exciting, Perla! In the meantime, I will bide my time; continue my massage therapy practice in the same old primitive fashion-manually, and eagerly await more news about further developments in this emerging golden goose.

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  38. Anon

    Until haptic can give me the feedback needed to sit on a virtual chair without falling in my empty room, I don’t think anything else haptic will actually be any help.
    Cyber sex? How?, if I can’t feel the other person pushing or pulling me?
    On the other hand, this sort of haptic push pull could very easily kill me when my avatar is crushed to death or ripped appart in the game, so: no good.

    I’ll just wait for the brain jacks, thankyou.

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  49. dorminay

    You wouldn’t necessarily need to stay within a bounded area. Instead of running around in the open, you could be inside a hamster ball like structure spinning on ball bearings. There could be devices on the joints that cause them to lock up when it makes sense, so if you pushed against a wall or something, your arms would actually appear to be stopped by the wall. You could also lay down and lean against a tree.

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