Nintendo 64 introduced us to more than just 3-dimensional open world gaming, it gave us the rumble pack.  While it has long since been incorporated into the controller itself for most gaming systems, it’s amazing how just a simple spinning weighted motor has been able to add so much depth to the gaming experience for so long.  It is even more amazing that the mechanism has gone relatively unchanged since its advent. 

n64 controllerThat, however, may be about to change. 
While I don’t think the “rumble” ability will ever go away so long as there are handheld controllers, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, or more precisely, innovative additions to the tactile experience we can have while playing video games. 

A German company has been experimenting with placing electrodes on the forearms of gamers.  The jolt is low voltage of course, but with just enough “oomph” to have physical effects such as we’ve never experienced.  Essentially a sensation of force is created in the gamer’s arms.  So, for example, if you are piloting a vehicle and turning into resistance, such as wind, the effect of the electrode results in you feeling that resistance in your arms to the point where it will be difficult for you to keep to that course.  That is an amazing depth of physical involvement for video games.

793px-Xbox-360-Controller-BlackBeyond just the immersive effect on gamers this technology would allow, I can see a whole line of branded designer “Shock Bands” with company logos, game specific iconography, and even customizable designs.  Also, this technology apparently uses way less power than conventional rumble packs do (YAY!!!) ensuring that you won’t constantly need to charge these things. 

I can imagine a fantasy RPG in the future where, during a sword fight, the strength of the opponent’s strike would cause sensations in your arms accordingly, perhaps to the point where enough stimulation would result in you letting go of the controller with one of your hands, causing you to drop your weapon in the game.  Just thinking of that gives me a geekgasm!

If this technology actually pans out then what can we expect the next step to be?  Why not leg bands, waste bands, headbands, etc., all simulating a full body experience?  All we’ll need then is fully functional virtual reality glasses and then, well, we’ve achieved virtual reality!

image source: [wikipedia]