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    Electroactive Polymers - Video Games Get Under Your Skin
    By Hank Campbell | November 4th 2012 05:53 PM | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0®.

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone ever had. Others may prefer Newton or Archimedes...

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    ViviTouch is a kind of 'artificial muscle' that seeks to make video games feel more real. The technology behind it is electroactive polymers, developed by Bayer subsidiary Artificial Muscle of Sunnyvale, right up the road from me.

    It's basically a new sort of motor that converts electrical energy into movement, to go beyond the  traditional haptic interface people expect by now.  Motor? Well, that is the CEO's terms. It's an actuator made of a thin polymer film but electroactive polymers are cooler than traditional actuators, generators and sensors because a ViviTouch-enabled device lets you 'feel' explosions, flying and even uppercuts like you were meant to, they say.  So if you like getting an uppercut, this is for you.

    In a controller or headphones, the polymer contracts and expands based on the sounds and people can better feel what is happening.

    The technology was invented in 2001 by SRI and they spun it out in 2004. Four years later they had the first haptic actuator prototype. It can deliver 75 Hz pulses, for example, so gamers get unique sensations based on what’s occurring in their game, but with more true feel than the 'rumble' in joysticks of today.


    Credit: ViviTouch

    Why is it cool?  We have enjoyed really improved graphics and sound (and story, if you played "Mass Effect" or "Uncharted") but feel has been missing. That is why I only bought "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" yesterday.  It's 3 years old but not much has changed so I was in no rush.  But if I could really feel bullets tearing into my spleen?  Maybe I would get more excited about the new games.