It starts with a tiny twitch across my chest, triggered by some gunfire in the distance. Then, there’s an explosion, and my left side starts rumbling. I fire my assault rifle, and it’s like a couple of smartphones are strapped to my upper body, vibrating in unison.
All this is coming from a small vest called KOR-FX. The $150 device translates sound to rumbles by connecting wirelessly to a small transmitter box, which then plugs into any audio source. A pair of transducers in front create rumbles on either side of your chest. I tested a prototype at E3 in a round of Call of Duty: Ghosts.
Immerz, the company behind KOR-FX, says the vest is more sophisticated than it seems. Instead of just basing vibration strength on volume, KOR-FX uses a filtering algorithm to guess which frequencies should produce the most rumble. The idea is that when you hear a sound with deep, chest-thumping bass, you’ll really feel it, even if you just have a set of headphones on. (Shahriar Afshar, the company’s president and founder, came up with the idea in response to some noisy gamer neighbors; he wanted to give them a way to feel the vibrations while maintaining some peace and quiet.)
In practice–with the vest on and pair of headphones over my ears–KOR-FX didn’t quite feel like a stand-in for a Monster subwoofer. I was too aware of this thing on my chest, and the sharp vibrations it created. It was interesting, though I can’t say it was as immersive as the company claims.
But maybe there’s something to the idea. The device isn’t on the market yet–it’s only available for pre-order on Kickstarter for now–but Immerz is already thinking about second-generation hardware. The company may also release a software development kit, so game makers can fine-tune the vest’s vibrations. To start, Immerz is hoping to get some vests out in the wild and gather more feedback from users.