There are all sorts of devices designed to make virtual worlds feel more real by mimicking physical sensations: full-body suits, gloves, robotic hands, and exoskeletons. These products mimic sensations, but they don’t create the realistic impression of spaces or structures, like walls or doors. As adoption of AR and VR becomes more pervasive, being able to walk through walls won’t seem like a neat trick–it’ll be a significant limit to user experience, jarring you out of a world that may otherwise seem realistic.
But how do you create a virtual wall, a physical obstacle that you can touch and push against, without using unwieldy mechanical hardware?
For human-computer interaction researcher Pedro Lopes, the answer lies beneath the skin. Lopes, along with Patrick Baudisch, Sijing You, Lung-Pan Cheng, and Sebastian Marwecki at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany, created a simple wearable that uses electrical muscle stimulation–small electric shocks–to directly deliver sensation to the user’s muscles. It’s similar to the type of …