Playing a videogame is intended to extend the experience of entertainment into a more personal connection. With a movie or TV show or even a play, you watch what is happening and pretend to put yourself into the action. With a videogame, however, you are in control over the experience - sometimes in small ways and others in large ways. However, we're still generally separated from the game in a variety of ways, but Actronika wants to bring you directly into the game experience with Skinetic.
Actronika is a company specializing in haptic technology. While we all think of haptics as the phone vibrating when we touch it, there's much more to the technology. In this case, the company focuses on a more high-definition version of haptics. The more focused technology allows for the creation of different haptic zones as well as different textures.
This technology has come together to form Skinetic - a haptic vest that can provide feedback during an entertainment session. The vest is able to replicate the sensation experienced by the character on the screen while not intentionally hurting the one experiencing it. The best part is that this is not limited to gaming. In fact, it can be used across nearly any type of entertainment.
The Skinetic vest is a perfect companion for gaming. When you're playing a game and a grenade goes off nearby, being able to feel that explosion makes the game a more immersive experience. But, because of the detail of the vest, you can also have a smaller experience, such as being tapped on the shoulder.
While this seems like a perfect companion for traditional gaming, it's even better for virtual reality. VR glasses are specifically designed to place you in a first-person perspective for your entertainment experience. By adding Skinetic into the mix, the experience truly does become more personal as well as more immersive. The game can bring you into the action and leave you with more of a consequence for failure.
While interactive entertainment is the most obvious place for Skinetic, it can also work well for passive entertainment. The inclusion of haptic feedback into movie and television can help to pull you more into the entertainment. In gaming, you'll have consequences for your own actions, while in this example you'll have consequences for the actions of the characters on screen.
Skinetic has to be integrated into the development of the entertainment experience. For example, a videogame developer must know about Skinetic and build for it. Fortunately, we've already seen some big titles get on-board, including the VR experience Half-Life: Alyx, which many consider to be one of the definitive VR games.
Development is made easy, though. Unlike many gaming tools, Skinetic support can be built outside of the game.development tools, you can create and test the individual textures and feelings directly allowing for quicker development. Once you have your texture, you can import it into your game.
The vest is incredibly detailed in design. There are 20 action zones, meaning that if someone taps you on the left shoulder, you can feel it only on the left shoulder. This is something that sets it apart from other VR vests, in that the experience can be tailered to the game environment.
The Skinetic is still under development, but developers can get ahold of a prototyping kit or evaluation kit. For consumers, you'll have to wait only a little while, as the pricut is intended to hit the market in May 2023. To learn more about Skinetic and Actronika, head over to the company's website.
Interview by Scott Ertz of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.
Scott is a developer who has worked on projects of varying sizes, including all of the PLUGHITZ Corporation properties. He is also known in the gaming world for his time supporting the rhythm game community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bay Area. Currently, when he is not working on software projects or hosting F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, Scott can often be found returning to his high school days working with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), mentoring teams and helping with ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors, currently housed at AMRoC Fab Lab.