The Kor-FX is the result of five years of research and development. Produced by the company Immerz, the vest uses vibrations to enhance sound and video game experiences. Much of the long research time that went into the Kor-FX centered around ergonomics. Humans come in many shapes and sizes and while in virtual reality or simply playing a game on a console or PC, you need an unencumbered range of motion.
The work seems to have paid off, the Kor-FX is highly adjustable and unobtrusive. It certainly appears as if it will not interfere with other haptic garments such as the Teslasuit, although this is unconfirmed. However, Kor-FX Haptics does describe it as a virtual reality “companion”.
The Kor-FX 4DFX (to use its full name) makes use of something called acousto-haptic signals. Which is just another way of saying that it creates bodily sensations using sounds.
Devices like the Kor-FX and Woojer are based on the notion that we don’t just experience sounds through our ears, but also with our bodies. You might not consciously notice it if you’ve ever been near a loud and bassy thing like a V8 engine or a firearm going off you’ll know that the sound reverberates through your body. Headphones, which are the main way audio is consumed in virtual reality, lacks the means to feel sound in that way. So if you’re sitting in a virtual helicopter you’ll hear the noise of the engine and thump of the blades, but won’t feel them thrum through your body. The Kor-FX vest basically boosts those audio waves straight into your body so you can feel the sound as you would in reality.
The way the Kor-FX vest does this is not by simply strapping subwoofers to your body, but by using something called a transducer. Your actual chest cavity then becomes the sounding chamber for the sound waves. According to the official material the audio is precisely directed and the device is compatible with anything that as a 3.5mm audio output. It can be used to enhance non-interactive content such as films and music as well.
The Kor-FX is pretty inexpensive at $150. The device is wireless and requires four AA size batteries, which provides a claimed 30- to 40- hours of run time.
There are also a few safety issues the company takes care to mention. People with heart conditions or pacemakers are advised against using it without a doctor’s approval.
Acousto-haptic devices like the Kor-FX 4DFX fill an important niche in the sum total of senses that virtual reality can tap into in order to make us feel immersed and present. Luckily in this case it’s an affordable addition that’s practical and versatile.