We're probably still a long way off from a realistic, full-immersion game-playing environment, but one vendor is trying to get us a little closer to the experience--although this company's approach appears to be more akin to using a Holodeck with the safeties turned off (alternatively, if you didn't get the Star Trek reference, it's like paying someone to kick you in the chest or head). The vendor is Redmond, Washington-based TN Games, and it makes force-feedback gaming products that you wear--designed to help you actually feel what is happening inside the game world.
TN Games refers to its force feedback technology as "3rd Space
," and its products as "impact generating gear
." The company currently sells a Gaming Vest that comes in black, camouflage, or pink (which all sell for $139). The vest uses compressed air to deliver blows to the wearer that are meant to simulate "the impact of punches, kicks, bullets and blasts that happen to your character in the game
." There are a total of eight air actuators on the vest (four on the front and four on the back) that each delivers five pounds of impact force.
What does five pounds of impact force feel like? The TN Games Website states
that you can simulate what it would feel like by doing the following:"Take a single roll of 50 pennies. Lay on the ground face up. Hold the role of pennies end on (up and down) 6 inches above your stomach, then release the roll and let the roll strike your stomach. That is what 5lb of force feels like."
The vest attaches to a Windows PC via a USB connection and it currently works with almost 30 games
, such as Call of Duty 4, Crysis, and World of Warcraft, using the 3rd Space Game Driver Software and in some cases, game mods.
Not content to let your torso have all the fun, TN Games now has an impact-generating helmet in the works that will use the same 3rd Space technology as its vest to deliver blows to your head. There is not a lot know about the product yet, other that this tidbit of info TN Games has posted on its site:"The HTX Helmet is the next product in development for TN Games using its 3rd Space™ technology.
The HTX Helmet is worn in conjuction
[sic] with the 3rd Space™ Gaming Vest and delivers blows to the head when you are fired upon.
Feel bullets whizzing by your helmet or the impact of getting shot in the head.
The helmet will communicates
[sic] with compatible games to give precise, 3 dimensionally accurate impacts where it happens, as it happens.
Release date 2009"
We're not sure what five pounds of force would feel like on our heads, as we were unwilling to try the experiment with the roll of pennies on our noggins. However, we suspect that the HTX Helmet probably won't use quite as much force as the vest does. The bigger question to ask, however, is that will anyone truly want to simulate the feeling of getting hit, kicked, or shot in the head? If there are any gamers out there who are seriously considering this product, we'd like to suggest to TN Games that it start working on a pair of impact-generating pants with air actuators positioned in the crotch cranked up to at least 10 pounds.