By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Gamers are one step closer to getting way into the virtual world, thanks to Oshawa start-up IFTech.
At Durham College’s annual Research Day, the armour-like ARAIG gaming suit, donned on the back of company co-CEO Brodie Stanfield, was revealed to the public for the first time.
The ARAIG, or As Real As It Gets, suit is designed to completely immerse gamers in the virtual world by giving them quite a bit more than just a rumbling controller in their hands. Decked out in the ARAIG, the user will be wearing electrodes, speakers and subwoofer.
The idea of the suit? You will feel what your virtual character feels.
“There’s no actual sort of outcomes for them,” Stanfield says of current gamers. “Whereas now, wearing ARAIG, if you kick in a door and get shot, you get the repercussions of what that is.”
Save for the bullet, electrodes will give the wearer a small jolt to feel the shot, or have the ability to make you feel the weight of a heavy backpack, or the shock of an explosion.
Stanfield’s idea was born after a session of Halo with his dad and co-CEO Michael in the basement of their Oshawa home in 2007. After developing the first prototype in 2010, the suit has brought together numerous community organizations to make it a reality.
“It’s been fundamental to have those different groups to actually work with,” Stanfield says. “Without them, it’d be still my dad and I in our basement pushing along and there’s only so far we could have gone.”
In 2013, after spending years in the search of funding for their initiative, the company started a Kickstarter campaign that spread across the Internet. The fundraiser would go viral, garnering more than $126,000 in only 30 days – an outcome that shone the spotlight on the Oshawa company, opening them up to other investors.
“From there, that kind of gave us validation for both ourselves as well as for other groups to actually say, ‘well, we’ll support you in the funding of this, that or the other,’” Stanfield says. “It kind of gives a pretty good emphasis that this is something that’s actually tangible, people want to buy into what it is.”
Since that time, the ARAIG has seen contributions from the SparkCentre, where they were a winner in the incubator’s Ignite Competition, as well Durham College and UOIT on the suit’s development electronic interior, and George Brown College on the garment’s design.
While the suit’s roots are set heavily in the gaming world, IFTech’s gaze has expanded into other sectors, with possible applications for military training and other virtual reality applications. Stanfield says they have met with several organizations regarding military training and there’s currently nothing in their training equipment arsenal quite like the ARAIG.
“There’s nothing to physically feel what happens,” Stanfield explains.
For gamers hoping to suit up in the near future, they should be ready when preorders are expected to start next month. And while they have been allowing demos of the suit over the past month, Stanfield urges things are still in the early stages.