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PRIVATE LIVES : VIDEO GAMES : Vesting New Interest in Interactivity

August 28, 1994|Robert Levine

Tired of only being able to see and hear home video games?

The Interactor, a new prod uct from Aura Systems that game players can wear as a vest, will help them feel some of the action as well. Using technology that the El Segundo-based company originally developed for military uses, the lightweight plastic vest converts bass sounds into vibrations that enable players to feel such bass-heavy vid-game staples as punches, kicks and laser blasts.

The Interactor is the first feeling-simulation vest to work in this way, and the effect is a bit like having a thumping car stereo speaker inside your rib cage. It doesn't create a very convincing virtual reality, but it adds an urgency and energy to such Nintendo games as NBA Jam.

Dribbles and rebounds pound as they would on a real gym floor, and the crowd's roar almost seems to come from inside the player. Explosions that seem to come from within make Total Carnage much more engaging, though the vest did little for a Nintendo billiards game.

The vest lets users feel the amount of sound they want at the "volume" they want, and it can be plugged into the audio output of any video game system. To add that extra kick to a Dr. Dre or Nine Inch Nails album, it can also hook up to a stereo with audio output.

The vest, which is scheduled to be in the stores by Sept. 5, will retail for about $80.*

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