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Will the new movie merch be virtual reality wearables?

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Disney are tying VR and movie merch with clothing that can simulate hugs, snakes, even a gut punch. Dibs not watching the showdown between Simba and Scar ever again…

 

 

Disney are taking the entertainment experience to the next level and beyond: from the virtual reality glove which makes you feel as if you are holding an object you’re watching on screen, or the jacket which can make you feel like rain is falling on you – this could be a whole new sensory experience.

Sure, it’s really easy to be able to say that things were simpler back in the day, when you went to see a movie, laughed/cried/booed (pick one, or three; up to you), ate your popcorn and went home. Star Wars came along in the late ’70s and all of a sudden there was even more money to be made from the toys, then they made actual movies out of toys, or games, or emojis, and before we know it we’ve entered into the golden age of post-modernism, or redundancy.

Long gone are the days when the idea of film tie-ins extended no further than the ability to purchase an extra large soda at the candy bar for the chance to take home your very own souvenir plastic Ghostbusters cup. It’s been a long time since the very notion of a film tie-in didn’t go much further than the simple novelisation, a uniquely American phenomenon in that it took the idea of cinematic adaptations of great literature and flipped the script, by turning them into cheap adaptations of a screenplay. Sure, you loved Back to the Future II, but wait until this action adventure film is adapted for paperback!

News from Futurism.com has the creative geniuses at The House of Mouse taking the cinematic experience to a new realm. They’ve found their way to come up with what they’re calling the Force Jacket. By hooking up 26 independent airbags inside a modified life vest, the team, motivated what we can only assume is a a push to create the creepiest garment ever designed, have developed a jacket that can simulate perceptions of a “snake moving across the body” or a “hug”. This technology (the jacket, not the hug) is thought to be intended for use in games and theme park attractions, although if your nana is no longer with us, this could be something that’ll be flying off department store shelves in no time.

There are seven different levels, from “gentle hug” to “punch to the gut”. Suddenly that Gremlins key ring is looking pretty nice.

Each of the jacket’s airbags can quickly inflate or deflate, creating haptic feedback sensations across the torso of the wearer. The goal is to produce effects that deviate from the usual “buzz” of a vibration motor, and create sensations like “quakes” or “beats”. According to the paper, there are seven different levels of pressure that range from “gentle hug” to “punch to the gut”. Suddenly that Gremlins key ring is looking pretty nice.

The interactive moviegoing experience is nothing new, with schlock movie makers in the ’50s using all kinds of gimmickry – built-in devices in select movie theatres to create a more immersive experience (as documented in the 1993 John Goodman nostalgia piece Matinee – Goodman’s character is a small-time film promoter trying to get bums in seats, and capitalise on fear of the Cuban missile crisis at the same time). Disney themselves incorporated sensory manipulation into their theme park ride Honey I Shrunk the Audience, which ends with the whole crowd feeling as though they have been collectively sneezed on by a giant dog.

This heightened technology they’re using for gloves and jackets, one can only presume will be co-opted by the adult film industry; replace “jacket” with “underpants” and you can see where this is potentially going. At the same time, a simulated hug is going to have to be a pretty impressive experience to nullify actual human contact. But the same thing could be said of social media friendships. And that’s a whole other series of articles right there.

 

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