Sometime last year I backed the second incarnation of a haptic feedback vest the Woojer Edge. Today it arrived and it is quite a piece of kit. No fancy unboxing video from me, not photos, though it was a nice box, but I just ripped it open like I was 5 and it was Christmas. Not please, I backed it, it means I paid for it, so there is no product placement or anything here. I like tech and gadgets and haptics it something I am very interested in anyway.
What does it do? I hear you ask. It turns sound into more of an impact on the body of the wearer. In particular the more bass notes and sounds, crashes and bangs. You wear it like a regular laptop back with a solid back panel, which can also incorporate a rick for a laptop to be work with it. I didn’t go down that option, yet. It connects to any audio source via a variety of means, bluetooth (which I have not used yet) 3.5mm or usb-c connectors. You attach everything to the small round control panel on the picture above. Then you connect your headphones to it, or you mirror audio, double bluetooth etc. Again I stuck with a 3.5mm connection to get to the experience.
Woojer have a calibration video on youtube which steps you through putting your audio source up to maximum, you don’t have to worry as the Woojer is the volume control for the head phones too and not a straight pass thru of the same max volume. I did this first on my mac and the range of impacts, vibrations and buzz it gave right away made me jump. It is not just a big single bass kicking you. They then direct you to a youtube playlist of tunes with a lot of complex beats that happen to drive the Woojer really well. You have, like any audio system, an up and down control on the impact and effect, cranked right up it can almost be painful, they suggest a lower value that is not a distraction, so you sort of blend to meet your ears and eyes. I had also gone full tilt in using my full over ear and in ear Nuraphone headphones that are balanced to my hearing profile by an app. They are always quite an experience in their own right. They balanced nicely with the bass they deliver around the ear and the body smacking of the Woojer.
Next up, it was over the Oculus Rift S and the PC. After the inevitable update to both oculus and windows I completely encased my head with the over ears and the VR headset and dived into the old favourite beat sabre. Wearing the Woojer felt a little more clunky as 2 of the 9 feedback speakers are in the should strap just above the armpit, but to be honest I forget that detail almost right away. The banging tunes and the frantic sabre action were awesome. Though, for beat sabre I think the beauty is the flow of the sword play almost without any resistance, but this was a borderline thing as it’s really rather visceral.
A couple of those levels and I swapped over to Pistol Whip. I deliberately put it on no fail so I could see what happened in various situations. I dived into the newest map, Religion, not even stopping to swap to the baba yaga guns from John Wick. It was eye blasting, ear blasting and chest lastingly good. The kick from shooting the guns of both the hand controller rumble and the boom the body feels combined with the music and also the definite impact if you get shot was very impressive. I have written a lot about virtual experiences and feeling and remembering them, and I certainly will not forget those first few shots in Pistol Whip. Then the gamer brain takes over, and I was lost in the level. Pistol Whip and Beat Sabre are great flow generators. I got to the end of the level (no other chose as no fail on :). I then had to figure out which bit to unlock and take off first to extricate myself.
I was not sure what the impact on the brain and body was for long term use. Just as some VR experiences can make you feel a little woozy (for many its a no go altogether) bass also makes your stomach rumble and nerves tingle. I remember when the original Battlestar Galactica film was show in sensurround in the cinema in the late 70’s. They used huge bass sub woofers to provide another kick (it was a great film but this was trying to out do the previous years Star Wars). Lots of people couldn’t cope and would leave the theatre feeling ill. I do remember the galactica flying slowly past on the screen as an 11 year old me felt his lunch gurgle, but stay put.
Post Woojer, I feel some tingly buzz, but it’s not horrible, more like one of those shiatzu neck messages have been at work. I will of course experiment on some more things. Looking forward to engines on spaceships in elite and no mans sky. Also there are some great games in my library that really need another look and this is a great excuse. I also will be seeing what its like being on the Oculus Quest and not tethered, probably using lighter in ear headphones. I think it might be cool to watch a few films, like John Wick, Star wars or even…. the original Battlestar Galactica… Ooooh! L8rs…..