An immersive experience is the name of the game in virtual reality, but how far are you actually willing to go? Samsung thinks making you feel seasick by electrocuting your inner ear is a good idea, and actually, it might be onto something.
The Entrim 4D headphones are a project cooked up by Samsung’s C-Lab, and shown off during the SXSW festival this week in Texas. The idea is reasonably simple: as well as playing sound like normal headphones, the Entrims use galvanic vestibular stimulation, a process that sends a very low-voltage electric current into a nerve in your inner ear. That electric signal messes with your balance, tricking you into feeling like you’re falling one way, so you move the other to correct.
It’s been around for a while as a reasonably well-understood curiosity with no application, but Samsung’s hoping to change that. The new headphones are wired up to a VR situation, and when your virtual character moves one way (a race car going around a corner, say), the headphones make you feel like you’re leaning that way.
Or, at least, they’re supposed to. According to people who have tried the prototypes, it feels variously “like seasickness” or “disorienting”, so there’s still some work to be done. Samsung agrees—the next generations are potentially adding electrodes to give a more 3-D experience, and possibly even solve motion sickness.