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New “Skinterface” Suit Lets Your Body Feel VR Objects

It was only a matter of time, I guess. Virtual and augmented reality have been creeping into our daily lives for some time now. From the massive popularity of Pokémon GO to doctors prescribing virtual reality for pain relief, it’s clear that we will likely soon be spending as much time in digital spaces as we do in our annoyingly stubborn physical reality.

"You know, I thought there'd be more flying."

“You know, I thought there’d be more neon light bikes.”

While most of these virtual and augmented reality (AR) experiences stimulate only one of our senses – vision – some developers have already tried incorporating smells and tactile feedback like vibration, mists, or cold/heat into their VR/AR headsets. Now, one’s whole body can become part of these virtual experiences thanks to a new tactile suit that’s being called the “Skinterface.”

The "Skinterface" tactile virtual reality suit.

The “Skinterface” tactile virtual reality suit.

The Skinterface was created by a group of designers at London’s Royal College of Art. According to the website they’ve launched for the innovative suit, the Skinterface works as both an input and output device for physical interaction with the digital world:

Skinterface enables two-way physical interactions with computer simulated objects and environments, creating a fully immersive experience. Located and tracked through 3D space, Skinterface is equipped with sophisticated actuators which convey subtle sensations, effectively converting virtual interaction into physical feeling.

According to Digital Trends, the suit was displayed at the 2016 Milan Design showcase and is sensitive enough to give users the sensation of a ceiling fan’s breeze or a soft couch cushion conforming to your weight. I don’t know about you, but these two things are just what I’ve always hoped technology would allow me to do in a virtual world.

A user trying a Skinterface sleeve to touch some unseen horror in a dark parallel dimension, presumably.

A user trying a Skinterface sleeve to touch some unseen horror in a dark parallel dimension, presumably.

The suit’s designers claim that the suit is the first technology capable of allowing users to effectively cross the threshold from the physical world to the digital one. Once that threshold is crossed, the designers claim new possibilities of VR experiences are possible:

Beyond this transition, the suit would also be capable of facilitating two way interactions with virtual objects or people—be that for entertainment, communication, virtual prototyping or one of the many other potential applications.

Hmm… what could these “many other potential applications” be…no, you know what, let’s just move on. VR headsets that shoot smells at you and this suit are just too much for today.

Oh, hello ladies. Care to touch my Skinterface?

Oh, hello ladies. Want to feel my weird new Skinterface?