Woojer allows you to “feel” the sound in games and music, opening doors for VR applications
We’ve seen products that use vibration to add immersion to games before, and they tend to be slightly underwhelming. Neal Naimer of Woojer claims that their product is different, and the Woojer hardware does sound very interesting for a number of reasons, including its possible impact on virtual reality hardware.
The Woojer hardware is clips onto your body and vibrates along with whatever input you connect. So it will rumble with music, with games, whatever you like. “Woojer simply plays all the frequencies below 500Hz. There are no algorithms which is what enables the tactile sensation to be delivered in real time with the audio visual,” Naimer stated. “The transducer is polyphonic and the signals can be very subtle - it is basically like having a bass guitar string attached to your body.”
He also claims that this is the first time this sort of product has been created successfully. “There has never been anything similar,” he explained. “They were either big, cumbersome, stationary or very expensive. Woojer is the only matchbox-sized, wearable, polyphonic, mobile woofer- backwardly compatible with any headset or audio source.”
So okay, why the heck would you want something vibrating on your body along with some music or a game? That’s a good question.
How it works
So the idea is that you clip one unit onto your chest, and a second one on your back if you want to increase the immersion, and the vibration of the hardware is enough to fool your brain into thinking your body is being impacted by the sounds of the input device. If you’re listening to music you may feel like you’re in the club. If you’re playing a game you may feel like you’re actually close to the explosions and gunfire.
“The principle of operation is perceptual inference, or auto completion. The product simulates the sensation of live music or a very strong sound system. Using a Woojer on a single point on your body is enough to convince the brain that the entire body is receiving sound,” Naimer explained.
“Placing Woojers on your body makes the sensation even more immersive. Imagine adding an augmented reality device such as Woojer which transforms any audio signal into silent, harmonic tactile sensations that resonate throughout the body to other existing immersive devices like the Oculus Rift VR headset.”
You can see why I'm so excited for this project, and I've already backed at the $120 level for two pieces of hardware. Something as simple as a fan blowing when you're playing a flying game on the Rift is enough to trick your brain into “feeling” what your eyes are seeing, so the idea that I could similarly trick myself into feeling like I'm physically near the source of in-game audio is incredibly attractive.
“As a team, we have actually experienced full immersion when adding Woojer to the Rift. Playing TF2 using both immersive devices delivers an experience that changed will alter the way you play games in the future,” Naimer told the Report.
The other neat bit is that there are no drivers, and nothing to set up. You plug an input into one end, your headphones into the other, and you're good to go. This allows owners of the hardware to use the Woojer in all sorts of interesting situations.
“The most surprising use was integrating Woojer with the Assistive Listening System at Disneyland,” Naimer said. “If you have ever been to Disneyland, they offer an Assistive Listening System, which amplifies sound through headphones or induction loop. They recommend park attendees with mild to moderate hearing loss to use the device. We plugged in Woojer and it was amazing how it enhanced things like Captain EO and Disney’s Aladdin.”
Real talk: I can hear fine, and I'm bringing this shit the next time I go to Disney because Captain EO is my jam. I haven't been able to use the system for myself, but the promise is there for an interesting addition to virtual reality. I'll give a full report when my unit comes in, and you can back the Kickstarter right now for your own set. I'll update with a full report when my hardware arrives in 2014.