Virtual reality and wearable tech are two emerging technologies that have generated massive interest across many industries in recent years. However, the two reach a remarkable intersection in Artefact’s Shadow hoodie, which allows gamers to immerse themselves in virtual reality via wearables. The concept is described by the company as “the most immersive virtual reality experience” with a built-in computer, battery and sensors.
The idea of wearable VR for entertainment has been around since the ’90s. Sega, Atari and Nintendo were each developing their own VR headsets for their respective consoles: Sega VR for the Sega Genesis, Jaguar VR for the Atari Jaguar and the Virtual Boy, a standalone Nintendo console. Of the three headsets, only the Virtual Boy made it to the market. While each product had its own immersive VR experience, users reported eye strain, motion sickness and dizziness—signs that VR was just too much, too soon, even for the futuristic vision of the ’90s tech market.
While there are many VR headsets being marketed today such as the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Steam VR and Microsoft HoloLens, Artefact seeks to free the user from the concept of using cables, which many of these VR solutions are still dependent upon. The headset covers the eyes, while the hood can be pulled up to isolate the user from actual reality. In addition, sensors on the sleeves allow users to interact with virtual objects.
While most VR solutions are focusing on sight, Artefact seeks to go beyond it. “Shadow is a suite of VR wearables for gamers who desire the most immersive VR experience and interact with others mainly in the virtual space. Immersion extends beyond sight – it incorporates the sense of sight, hearing and touch,” the company said.
With the shrinking of computers and an increase in computing power, Artefact argues that VR technology is finally ready to hit the mainstream. “VR has the potential to change how we consume content. After years of false starts, the technology is finally sophisticated enough to deliver on its promise to help us forget where we are and allow us to experience things we never thought possible.”
In the entertainment space, there is great potential for VR including massive multiplayer online games and online first-person shooters. People could play against each other out in public rather than from home shackled to a computer. Should the Shadow hoodie or any other wearable/VR hybrid make it to market, game developers might have to significantly change their products to incorporate the VR experience. Another beneficiary could be fitness games, which are wholly reliable on movement. This could possibly spawn a variation in design—many wearables, such as the Apple Watch, have “sport” versions as well.
Some potential applications beyond entertainment could lie in other industries as well. For instance, architects might be able to walk clients through 3D models of their designs. One designer even went as far to say that VR technology could become “more powerful than cocaine.” While the concept is interesting, there is no set timeline on when this merging of two advanced technologies will be available to consumers. However, the untethering of VR tech could be the advancement the nascent field needs to finally reach and appeal a wide consumer market.