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You’ve Got the VR Glasses—But Do You Have the VR Jacket?

Startup Machina says gamers need connected clothing to be fully immersed in virtual reality

1 min read
You’ve Got the VR Glasses—But Do You Have the VR Jacket?
Photo: OBE

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.)

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
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Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford
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Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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