Are electric zaps the new form of mobile force feedback gaming?
At the Computer Human Interaction conference in Paris, France, Pedro Lopes, a Ph.D. student at the Hasso Plattner Institute demonstrated his Muscle-Propelled Force Feedback system which is a combination of a mobile phone (where the games are played on), electrodes stuck to the player’s skin, and unit that delivers small bursts of electric charge from a 9-volt battery.
The system was designed to combat the problem of not being able to simulate feedback via a bigger control unit such as a joystick or steering wheel. Instead, it delivers medically compliant electric shocks to actuate the muscles to replicate the feeling you’d get when holding a controller that has force feedback.
Let’s say the gamer was playing a racing game and was turning a sharp corner. The unit would send small pulses of electric current to stimulate the muscles to involuntarily contract. This would force the player to turn in the wrong direction and they would then have to physically fight off the contraction to maintain the proper turn throughout the bend. The electric shocks essentially simulate that force you’d need to apply to the steering wheel when turning a very tight corner. That’s just one example of course.
The unit delivers 12 volts and 20 milliamps (or less), meaning that your muscles won’t hurt or feel pain when you use the unit.
Lopes’ ultimate goal is to reduce the size of the unit by having bracelets with electrodes inside, instead of having wires running from the present bulky unit to the body. He plans to use Bluetooth to send commands from the phone to the bracelets to compensate for the lack of wires.
Even though the milliamp levels may be within medically acceptable range, what are the implications in the long run? Are we going to get so accustomed to the shocks that boosting the milliamp rating would be the only way to feel sensations again?