A lot of companies are looking to find ways to make the TV of the future more immersive. Whether it’s the likes of Microsoft with its SmartGlass giving you information on characters during the show, or virtual reality companies wanting to take it into the third dimension, the future of TV is definitely going to be different. Foxtel however believes it will go in another direction entirely, and is now offering a product called the Alert Shirt, which is designed to let you feel what sportsman on the field are feeling at any time during a game.
Featuring haptic feedback motors, that are able to give the sensation of touch to those watching the game, the idea is for every hit, touchdown, kick, or shove, viewers will get a sensation of how the players are feeling at that exact moment. This works by sending information from the players themselves (who are wearing almost a reverse version of the Alert Shirt) to a central hub, which then analyses and compounds that data, before sending it out to all Foxtel app users and transferring that information into haptic feedback via the shirt.
Latency is obviously pretty important with a device like this. There’s no point in feeling a tackle a few seconds after it’s happened, which is why Foxtel says it’s managed to get it down to mere milliseconds of delay. Combine that with the usual slight delay TV’s already experience and it should match up nicely.
Foxtel claims that the shirts are able to emulate not only the big hits, but also the nervous excitement before a game, translating that into a thumping heart and little muscle twitches before the action begins.
Try as I might, I cannot find anywhere where you can buy, pre-order, or register interest for an Alert Shirt. According to the official site, you need to head to a local store to get your hands on one, but Foxtel doesn’t tell you how much it is and that there’s only going to be 12 sent to each location, so there’s unlikely to be many of these in the wild anytime soon. If you want one, head to: Colonial Northland Shopping Centre, Savills Watergardens Shopping Centre, Westfield Doncaster SC, Bay City Plaza, AMP Knox City Shopping Centre, Colonial Chadstone Shopping Centre, Westfield Fountain Gate SC, Westfield Southland SC, GPT Highpoint SC, Pacific Werribee Plaza or Colonial Bayside Plaza – all of which are in Australia.
The most obvious issue here is availability. If there’s only going to be 100 or so of these available, almost no one is going to get one. However I’m more worried about the synchronisation of the shirt with the action. While it might take milliseconds to go through and in the demo we see it working fine when you’re in the studio, what happens if you have satellite TV instead of cable? Or are watching online? Will the delay be different, will it be calculated for? This shirt would be useless if it was giving you the feeling of a hit before or after the action, even by as little as half a second.
However, I’m also not sure who’d want this? It might be fun for a computer game, but no one wants to be getting shocks to the chest while trying to drink their beer.
If Foxtel wants to apply this shirt to a video game, I think it would make a lot more sense. Give it to Oculus VR to play with, but for sports, I don’t see it catching on. This is clearly more of a publicity effort though, since so few are being made.