The blue pill: Haptic suit puts rugby stars in The Matrix

Ready Player One. Picture credit: Warner Bros

The relationship between reality and the virtual world is something science fiction is fascinated by.

It’s at the core of the book that coined the term cyberspace – William Gibson’s Neuromancer. It crops up again and again in films like The Matrix and more recently Ready Player One.

There’s even a growing group of scientists who think we may actually be living in a simulation. Elon Musk is one of them.

While this might remain a theory, new technologies are making the seemingly impossible a reality, like this haptic suit that can let you feel a rugby tackle from 100 miles away.

The Teslasuit bodysuit. Picture credit: Teslasuit

Teslasuit brings touch to virtual and augmented reality – and now, using 5G connectivity, haptic technology has been tested to new levels.

The full bodysuit works by electro-stimulation, giving the wearer physical sensation in response to an action or command. This increases immersion and 360-degree awareness, and engages muscle memory.

Reproducing and stimulating sensation in this way has potentially far-reaching uses, from immersive gaming to remote healthcare, safer industrial solutions and even online shopping – allowing consumers to virtually interact with items they want to buy.

Wasps rugby players Juan De Jongh and Will Rowlands have been experimenting with haptics and 5G technology to practise rugby tackles 100 miles apart.

Braced for impact

De Jongh – kitted out in a Teslasuit – stands braced for the impact, while Rowlands takes a run at a padded cylinder containing multiple sensors. Upon contact, the sensors transmit the physical impact instantaneously over a 5G network to De Jongh’s haptic suit.

Children from Old Leamingtonians RFC Juniors in Coventry were also able to try out their tackling skills on De Jongh, by running towards a padded cylinder containing sensors. Detecting contact, the sensors transmitted a physical sense of impact instantaneously to De Jongh’s haptic suit. 

Moment Juan De Jongh is hit by a tackle over 100 miles away via 5G. Picture credit: Vodafone

“I’ve never experienced anything like this. It felt like something from the Matrix,” says De Jongh.

“This technology could not only help athletes to train, but to get back into training after injury.”

The people behind the suit believe it could help improve reflexes and instincts, allowing faster reactions and agility – further streamlined by the real-time, low latency of 5G.

Machine enabled-man

“This truly demonstrates the power and capabilities of Vodafone’s 5G network. The speed and low latency opens up a wealth of new opportunities that have not been possible before”, says Scott Petty, Chief Technology Officer at Vodafone UK.

“One of the most exciting is haptic communications technology that allows people to feel sensations remotely. Haptic technology like this will play a huge part in the future from healthcare to gaming”.

Combining connectivity and haptic technology like this has exciting implications.

Instead of the dystopian nightmare of man-versus-machine – this is the empowered machine-enabled-man.

One benefiting from futuristic tech to enhance both method and performance.

The 5G haptic tackle process. Picture credit: Vodafone

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