Startup Machina last week introduced a connected jacket packed with motion sensors, touch controllers, and vibration motors for haptic feedback. It calls this wearable the OBE, for Out of Body Experience, and thinks it will catch on with virtual reality gamers. The first generation OBE jacket will sell for $199; the company envisions later expanding into pants and gloves. OBE is releasing a software development kit through the Unity game development system, and expects the first games that work with the OBE jacket to be available in December.
Machina has been around since 2012. In 2014, it released its first product, a jacket that acts as a MIDI-compatible music controller. Still, after checking out the product at the Highway 1 accelerator’s May demo day, I did find myself wondering whether this system is going to stand a chance against competition like Levi Strauss and Google’s joint effort to take connected clothing mainstream. However, OBE founder Linda Franco announced that the company has its first big order: Samsung is buying 500 jackets that it will use for software development and market testing. (And yes, the jacket is machine washable, though you have to remember to pull out a few key modules.)
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 30 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.