ARAIG Suit Could Bring True Immersion To Gaming
A very exciting new project has just gone live on Kickstarter. It's called ARAIG - As Real As It Gets - and it's a sensory feedback exoskeleton. That's pretty much exactly what it sounds like - it's a piece of wearable gaming hardware that quite literally stimulates your physical senses while you play. The implications here seem pretty clear, no?
"Experience the next level of gaming," reads developer IFTech's mission statement. "Finally, you get to feel what you've only been able to see." IFTech describes the ARAIG as "wearable technology that stimulates the senses where you, the gamer, can now feel the rain on your shoulders, the rumble of a tank, the concussion of sound and debris; where you are drowned in the sensations and sound of your gaming world." That's a hefty promise to make. Can it deliver?
Admittedly, the suit itself looks somewhat absurd. In all honesty, it more closely resembles a piece of sporting equipment more than any sort of revolutionary gaming peripheral. I still can't shake the fact that the fellow in the screenshots looks more ready for hockey practice than a gaming session.
But we're getting off track. The hardware consists of three primary components:
The Decoder is a small data transfer device which acts as the bridge between the suit and the gaming platform. Through a process that isn't yet entirely clear, the Decoder alters data from a gaming device and sends it to the ARAIG suit. It also appears as though different decoders will be designed for different systems; purchasing a decoder will allow any ARAIG rig to connect to that system.
The Exoskeleton is basically the ARAIG itself - and this is where things start to get really cool. It uses three primary forms of feedback to provide immersion: sound, vibration, and something known as STIMS. The first two are pretty straightforward: speakers are built into the ARAIG's exterior; these allow the player to hear sound as though they were in-game. In addition, segments of the suit can vibrate to simulate sensations such as an earthquake or a bullet's impact.
STIMS is where the ARAIG sets itself apart: the finished device will use sensory stimulation to contract particular muscles in a user's body in order to provide a wide array of different sensations, from the feel of something crawling across the skin to outright muscle contraction. Thankfully, this is already FDA approved, and (presumably) tested so that it doesn't end up causing any pain. All this is powered by a rechargeable battery pack which can be charged either in a wall-jack or during gameplay.
Lastly, there's the Sim Skin, which is a purely aesthetic piece designed to fit over the Exoskeleton. While we haven't caught wind of any specific Sim Skins quite yet (IFTech has explained that the community will have a hand in what they look like) a few suggestions include Master Chief, Batman, or Iron Man. In addition, those who pledge to the Kickstarter can create and purchase their own custom skin.
This product is pretty awesome by itself, but I'd like to ask you all for a moment to imagine it with the Oculus Rift and Reactive Grip. Imagine expanding the suit to the full body, and bringing in a multi-directional treadmill. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it.
Of course, this is something developers are going to need to actively support. If there's no software that works with the technology, it's essentially just an expensive conversation piece. That said, I don't see any reason why one wouldn't want to support ARAIG, given what I've seen so far.
The ARAIG Kickstarter is looking to raise $900,000 before the month is up; $299 is the minimum pledge if you want to receive the device itself. From that, we can reason that the final product will probably retail for around that amount, as well. A bit pricy, true, but it may well be worth it. Time will tell.