Disney Research has unveiled a prototype wearable device it calls the "Force Jacket," which uses a set of inflatable bags to simulate pressure and force in sync with visuals. Immersive experiences seek to engage the full sensory system in ways that words, pictures, or touch alone cannot.
Most tactile feedback systems in the works for VR use haptic motors to create vibrations, the Force Jacket, created by engineers at Disney Research, MIT and Carnegie Mellon University, uses a different method to simulate varying amounts of pressure or vibrations across the torso and down the arms.
The Force Jacket has some clear potential applications in making theme park VR experiences feel far more immersive. Since it's driven by an air compressor and vacuum pump, the rig is far too bulky for personal use, but it could show up in permanent installations.
The video below describes the pneumatic hardware and force control algorithms, user studies to verify perception of airbag location and pressure magnitude, and subsequent studies to define full-torso, pressure and vibration-based feel effects such as punch, hug, and snake moving across the body. It further discusses the use of those effects in prototype virtual reality applications.