The Tesla Suit

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Not the kind of Tesla Suit I was thinking of.


I get the impression that, shall we say, their technology is not exactly 100% existing at this point. They talk about their “smart fabric” conveying electrical pulses to the skin to simulate various sorts of sensations, but it seems more aspirational than actual, as it’s generations ahead of what larger companies are doing with electrostatic vibration, they have no pictures and a video that’s just a wild fantasy. The only bit of their technology that actually seems to exist is the glove, which seems to be a re-invention of part of Nintendo’s 1980s foray into virtual reality, the Power Glove (and the VPL Dataglove it was based on).
Yet again the current VR craze is giving me a flashback to the late '80s/early '90s VR craze. That doesn’t bode well.

All innovative technology has a wow factor until it becomes commonplace and then most of it just becomes mundane. Using that pattern as a template, I’m picturing kids wearing tesla suits to virtually mow the lawn in a game while actually mowing the lawn via a remote controlled roomba mower, thinking their parents are stupid for thinking that making a game out of mowing the lawn would be fun. But kids need to do it because gamified virtual chores level up character?

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BlueTooth stack?! Even with low-latency protocols you’re looking at something like 30ms latencies. Round-trip that’ll be 60ms, plus processing… you’re already talking 4-5 frames delay between seeing the thing and feeling it, or reaching out and getting a response. Nice conceptual site, but completely vaporware… everything would feel like you’re in jello.

I’m sold!

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I have been doing this for a few years, using strips of a stretch fabric which is conductive with silver filaments. It works great. If you’ve got a decent signal workbench, you can experiment with various waveforms, modulations, etc. It takes some caution - mine can push a few hundred volts, so I am careful to time it so that nothing goes through my chest.

Yeah, delays are a known immersion-killer with haptic feedback. All the data of a haptic feedback suit with significant position tracking on top of the processing required for VR video (Oculus just announced system requirements, and it’s pretty hefty by itself) is problematic.

So how big an area have you been working with? I’ve heard about the surfaces of controllers and touch screens using the tech, and I’m not sure how many different touch sensations anyone has managed to simulate, but a whole shirt, with the ability to create a variety of different sensations at various points around the body seems pretty far beyond what anyone else has managed (or attempted) at this point in an upcoming commercial product. Plus they don’t even seem to have a prototype. The belt seems like a collection of things that have been done (although perhaps not together), but they don’t seem to have a prototype for that, either.

Thankyou for all your comments and questions!
The answers are coming soon. Stay tuned and get ready for some awesomeness!

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