Have you ever played VRChat on Steam? Perhaps you’ve tried Google Cardboard or the Xiaomi Mi VR, two affordable gadgets for using basic yet enjoyable virtual reality (VR) apps on your smartphone. But as much as the industry is focused on VR today, there is another exciting tech that can make gaming even more immersive — and we’re talking about exoskeletons.
A Complement to VR Technology
Virtual reality is about changing what you see around you in a whole new way. Rather than just seeing the likes of Skyrim and Fallout in front of you on a 32-inch LED screen, a VR headset modifies your entire vision. The real world ceases to exist when you put it on — all you see is the in-game world.
However, sight and sound aren’t enough to make digital elements as realistic as possible. Your mind may succeed in tricking you that you’re in a forest filled with wildlife, but what about movement? At its current state, VR cannot make people believe that they are taking huge, heavy steps as a robotic avatar. And if the sense of touch is in direct contrast with sight and hearing, the VR experience could turn bad.
Placing Exoskeletons in Context
Exoskeletons are found in animals like grasshoppers and lobsters. As its name implies, an exoskeleton serves as an outer skeleton to provide protection. But in the world of technology, an exoskeleton is more like a highly complex, robotic suit used to improve human capabilities. For example, the Hercule was introduced back in 2012, and it allowed a person to carry 220 pounds with relative ease.
But in the world of video games, what can an exoskeleton do? Well, it can help players sense what they’re touching in-game. When you touch a gun or a bow, you will indeed feel that you’re in direct contact with it — there’s no need to imagine because your hands will no longer feel empty.
The Gloves Before the Full Suit
Exoskeleton technology is yet to become affordable and effective enough to capture the mainstream gaming market. However, there are already hints of what good it can do today. For example, there are high-tech gloves that produce vibrations whenever your character in a shooter game is hit.
An even better glove is one that serves as our first glimpse of a full exoskeleton suit. Dexta Robotics has invested a lot of time and effort into building the Dexmo — a force feedback glove built for the future. Prototype exoskeletons today still have wires and a multitude of tiny, fragile computer components. In contrast, the 300-gram Dexmo is wireless and features a sleek design.
With the Dexmo, you won’t only feel that you’re touching a virtual item — you can also sense what is happening to it. If you squeeze a piece of cloth in a video game, the glove will deliver variable force feedback for each of your fingers. You’ll think that you did apply pressure to an actual piece of cloth.
Tech companies like Yost Labs Inc and AxonVR have plans to further explore the possibilities of exoskeleton tech. Once the advanced gloves prove to be a hit, they can dedicate more resources for producing a working wireless gaming exoskeleton — complete with features such as 360-degree motion tracking and temperature control.
With innovations such as virtual reality and exoskeleton tech improving year after year, it’s only a matter of time before our understanding of video game immersion is completely overturned.