"Reach Out. Reach Out and Touch Someone."
That was the catchphrase which Bell Telephone used back in
1979 to try & convince consumers to make more long distance phones. But
someday soon, the Mouse may find itself reviving this slogan as a way to
promote Surround Haptics, a next generation home-gaming platform that Disney
Research, Pittsburgh has recently developed which features tactile technology.
"And what's tactile technology?," you ask. Well, if you'd
like to see an actual demonstration of this amazing technology, you first need
to head to Vancouver. Where - now through Thursday - artists, scientists and
designers from around the globe have gathered at the Vancouver Convention
Centre for SIGGRAPH 2011.
Copyright 2011 ACM SIGGRAPH. All rights reserved
And once you get to this convention center, you need to head
to Ballroom B in the West Building. Which is where some of Carnegie Mellon's
top brains, Disney Research, Pittsburgh and Black Rock Studios (AKA Disney
Interactive Studios) have set up a demo that literally promises to " ... send
shivers down your spine."
"And how are they planning on doing that?," you query.
Through Surround Haptics, which supposedly marries " ... highly detailed and
dynamic tactile experiences with full-body motion controls, stereoscopic
visuals, and spatial sound." In short, this home-gaming system prototype has
the ability to transform you from being a
passive participant to someone who actually feels like they're inside of the
game that they're playing.
Part of the demo in Ballroom B involves a tricked-up version
of Disney Interactive Studios' driving simulation game, "Split / Second." Where all of the experiences that the "driver"
experiences over the course of this racing game being significantly enhanced
due to complex tactile sensations. Which means that - as you move through "Split/Second"
's constantly-exploding CG race course - you can actually feel the potholes in the road that you're
traveling on. Not to mention sinking back into your seat as your race car accelerates
and/or be jarred by your collisions with other cars on this virtual race
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
And the best part of Surround Haptics? This technology (at
least according to what the folks at Carnegie Mellon and Disney Research,
Pittsburgh are claiming) is supposedly inexpensive. More importantly, because
it's compact and can make use of off-the-shelf tactile actuators, Surround
Haptics can easily be incorporated into clothing, furniture and gaming
And to nail this concept home, as part of their " ... send
shivers down your spine" demo, the Surround Haptics design team have set up a modular
home tactile display. Which is basically this custom-built plywood chair that could
also be used as your standard computer desk chair. You know the type that I'm
talking about, right? With soft pads on the seat and backrest?
The only difference between this computer desk chair and the one that you have
at home is that the soft pads that have been built into this custom-built plywood
chair featuring embedded tactile grids. Not to mention a wireless control
board. Which means that anyone seated in this chair can then control the game
that they want to play using full-body gestures (which are then recognized by Microsoft's
controller-free gaming system, Kinect).
Copyright 2011 Disney Research, Pittsburgh. All rights reserved
"So what's the point of using all of this off-the-shelf
technology and pre-existing game control systems as part of this demo at
SIGGRAPH 2011?," you continue. It's simple, really. Think of this demo of a very
public proof-of-concept of a technological innovation that Disney would very
much like to bring to the marketplace soon. How soon? Perhaps as early as the
2013 International Consumer Electronics Show.
But for now - if you'd like to sample the artfully designed algorithm
that lies at the very heart of Surround Haptics (which then takes advantage of
months & months of psychophysical studies that The Walt Disney Company
funded. Which gave the folks at Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research, Pittsburgh
a far better understanding of how our brains & bodies actually process
tactile sensation) - there's only one place on the planet where you can
experience this groundbreaking technology. And that's Ballroom B in the West
Building at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Now - if you'll excuse me - I've got to go check Priceline
and see if there are any affordable flights to Canada out there.
Special thanks to Noe Valladolid for giving me a head-ups
about this amazing Disney-related demo at SIGGRAPH 2011.
These are not Carnegie Mellon people. These are pure Disney people. Nothing to do with CMU.