By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Imagine you’re playing a video game. You’re running through the virtual street, gun in hand, when an enemy appears from an alley and fires a bullet into your back. Not only will your character react, but when you’re wearing the IFTech ARAIG suit, you’ll feel it sitting in your chair at home.
Or, imagine a day you need a regular household item, a plate, a glass, a few more forks or knives. Instead of running to the store, all you would need to do is download a set of codes from the Internet and print them off using your rapid prototyper.
These devices were only a pair of the selection of technology and projects highlighted during Durham College’s Research Day on April 30, showing the many in attendance how their lives may soon be changing.
The event also included a glimpse into Durham College’s work in the fields of agriculture, healthcare and wearable technologies.
Speaking in an interview with The Express prior to the event, Brodie Stanfield, the co-founder and co-CEO of IFTech, the creator of the ARAIG suit, explained where the idea for the suit came from.
He says it started one day when he and his father were playing video games at home.
“We were actually playing Halo. We were in a vehicle called a Warthog, which is like a Jeep. He was on the back and I was driving and eventually the vehicle exploded,” Stanfield says. “We went flying and the controller rumbled a little bit. We kind of both looked at each other and had this little epiphany, like, there’s got to be something more than this.”
After doing the research, Stanfield found there wasn’t anything on the market and decided to build it himself.
A graduate of University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s game development and entrepreneurship program and with a masters in the area of artificial intelligence for gaming and the making of 3D video games, Stanfield worked to create the ARAIG suit, or the As Real As It Gets.
Lauren Fuentes a professor at Durham College in the school of science and engineering technology, has been one of the professors working on the suit along with a select group of students.
She says the suit works by inserting both vibratory and muscle stimulators into parts of the suit.
“Once you put on the ARAIG, it has many sensors – some of them vibratory, some of them are muscle stimulants. You will have surround sound on the suit, so anything that is happening on the screen, you will feel like if you’re in the game. If you get shot, you will feel that shot,” Fuentes explains.
Students at Durham College have been working to make the suit completely wireless and ensuring the suit communicates with the controller. The project is set to start intense testing in the near future.
“The real testing is going to start soon, and we are anxious to get to that part,” she says.
Stanfield, a native of Blackstock, says the intent of the suit is to allow people to completely immerse themselves in a game, to whatever extent they are comfortable with.
“We feel that rather than applying one type of sensation to a person’s body, if you have multiple sensations you can provide and customize, you can truly immerse someone within an experience as well as create a variety of different kinds of sensations to mimic real world situations,” Stanfield says.
The suit, which will retail for US$499, should be available for preorders in the coming months at ARAIG.com.
Stanfield urges would-be buyers to ensure they know what the suit will and won’t work with prior to purchasing it. Stanfield also says the team will keep potential customers up to date whenever new games are added to the ARAIG’s capability.
“Our whole team is opposed to the idea where you say, ‘Oh it’s going to work with everything,’” he says. “We want everyone to make sure, when they buy it, they know what they’re getting into.”
Old tech on the rise
Three-dimensional printers have been around for quite some time, the first 3D prototypers appearing almost 25 years ago.
However, Chris Daniel, a professor in the school of science and engineering technology at Durham College, says the technology is on the rise as it becomes more accessible.
“It’s not new technology, but in the mainstream it’s becoming new technology because now you can buy one for $300,” Daniel says.
Durham College’s new rapid prototyper uses a spool of plastic wire which, when fed into a heated environment, is manipulated to form any object programmed into it, building the object in layers from the bottom up.
Daniel says some of the objects can be made in only 20 minutes, while others could take up to three days.
“Rapid is relative,” he says.
As a part of Daniel’s class, students are required to design and create a pneumatic engine using, in part, the rapid prototyper.
Daniel says learning how to use the machine is an essential skill for any student looking to get into the tech sector.
“I quite easily imagine a day not that far away when people have their own rapid prototypers,” Daniel says.