A Video Game that Really Gives You the Shivers

May 28, 2011 4:59:30 AM

Emad Hanna


Digital entertainment is on the road to becoming a fully immersive experience. Last week at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Disney researchers unveiled a project called ‘Tactile Brush’ that will be used to create creepy sensations during movies. The technology makes use of phenomena that have been well established for many decades.

It has long been known that if two vibrating objects are successively placed at different points on the skin, an illusion of motion can be created between the two points. Another illusion known as ‘phantom tactile sensation’ is done by placing vibrating objects at different points on the skin at the same time which creates a tactile sensation between the points.

The ‘Tactile Brush’ uses both of these ideas to produce all kinds of sensations. An array of vibrating coils is placed in the user’s chair and by manipulating the intensity of vibration of different coils, the system can create sensations as powerful as a vehicle making a hard turn or as subtle as a drop of rain trickling down the skin.

This new system is sure to perk up the ears of gamers and thrill enthusiasts the world over. Although tactile feedback systems (Haptic technology) have been around since the 1950’s they have never enjoyed mainstream success in the gaming or entertainment industry. ‘Tactile Brush’ is hoping to change that. Ali Israr, one of the developers of the system, tells New Scientist that this will open up a new untapped realm for digital entertainment. “Two metres squared – that’s the total area of our skin,” he says. “It’s a big area.”

Credit: Daniel Koebe/Corbis