Look, but don't touch. Or even feel for that matter – while VR headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are already doing a great job of letting us see virtual worlds, they don't do much to offer the physical sensations of actually being there. The illusion that you're not sitting in your pants, covered in Wotsits crumbs, looking like a dick with a plastic screen strapped to your face hasn't quite been overcome yet. But Samsung's new prototype Entrim 4D VR accessory aims to let you feel those virtual worlds, using some interesting methods.
Developed by Samsung's secretive C-Lab, and being shown off at this year's South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, the headphone-like gadget works by tricking the part of your ear responsible for balance.
"Using a combination of algorithms and Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS), a safe and simple technique that sends specific electric messages to a nerve in the ear, the VR accessory synchronizes your body with changing movements in video content," Samsung explains in its press release.
"Electrical signals—like the ones used to help restore balance in stroke patients—are delivered via headphones equipped with electrodes that correspond with movement data input by engineers."
Sounds dangerous, but unarguably cool, too. Samsung reckons that this allows you to feel sensations similar to movements seen on screen, whether they're bursts in speed or rising elevation. Paired with Samsung's Drone FPV, and you could even feel like you're flying.
As well as removing the "need" (and I'm using "need" as a relative term here) for fancy 4D motion chairs, Samsung reckons it could also be used to counteract the motion sickeness feelings some experience when using VR headsets. These are usually caused by the disconnect between what a user's eyes are seeing, and what the body expects to feel in relation to the simulated motions – an issue the Entrim 4D tackles head-on.
Having been tested by 1,500 people using 30 different movement patterns, this is just the first step in the evolution of the Entrim add-on – Samsung's got another model planned already that uses additional electrodes to create a feeling of rotational motion. Odds-on you see this eventually integrated in future generations of Samsung's own Gear VR virtual reality headsets. [Samsung]