The latest product coming from Disney Research is a device that generates force-feedback while gaming, thus making the experience more immersive.
What do Microsoft’s Kinect, Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PS Eye all have in common? These are devices meant to increase the interaction between the player and the game. However, besides the friction with the air, there wasn’t much feedback felt when performing a certain action. With that in mind, Disney presents the world its latest concept, named Aireal (have you noticed already how much this name resembles the one of Disney’s famous mermaid?), which tracks the players with a Kinect sensor.
Aireal is still a prototype and the way I see it, its development was an exercise in imagination for Disney Research. Basically, the device makes use of air (as even its name suggests) to make things seem real. The air is blasted through a small tube, sometimes directly at the player, other times near him, but still close enough so that he can feel the feedback.
The device could also be used for massage, provided that the vortex of air is forceful enough. Its main purpose would still be closely related to gaming, as this market is in a continuous expansion.
The following video demonstrates how Aireal could be used in tandem with a soccer simulator. The player acts as a goalie, and he needs to push the incoming balls away. The blasts of air that represent the balls are sent into various directions. Besides, the tube generating them moves quickly enough to prevent all this from becoming frustrating.
I’m not sure whether Disney Research developed this concept for theme parks or for individuals. Hopefully, we’ll get to see such a device in every gamer’s home in the not so distant future. We really need some sort of feedback while playing games and the vibrating controllers are no longer sufficient. There have been many attempts to create devices that generate some sort of feedback, but none of them caught on, so my hope lies with this one, for the moment.
Maybe someday we’ll get to feel the bullets when we’re being shot at, but I’d much prefer them to be made out of air, too. That would probably make us pay more attention. Now imagine such a system combined with Microsoft’s IllumiRoom. Wouldn’t that be almost the ultimate gaming experience?