One of the most successful and intriguing innovations at CES 2022 was Owo, the haptic vest by the Málaga-based start-up. Everyone wanted to try it out in Vegas but, alas, COVID prevented us to attend physically last minute. However, one of the advantages of Gamereactor as a network is that we're more omnipresent, and we were fortunate enough to be invited by the company to try the vest by ourselves and to interview CEO and founder Jose Fuertes at their offices.
"Our innovation needed a new haptic technology", says Fuertes, before explaining how they patented their solution to "offer real physical sensation". In the video below we're wearing Owo's "second skin" jacket, and around the 5-minute mark you can see how yours truly's very sensitive muscles flex during calibration:
Fuertes underlines that, as shown inside the vest, "you can find patches, not actuators because we're not using vibration". They guarantee no harm and complete safety as those pulse-based patches "are working on the surface of muscles to create immersion". However, it's not meant for fitness or physiotherapy, as that's "similar but not the same", being Owo specifically focused on gaming.
During the calibration via an app, and with the several demos afterwards, we felt sensations that go beyond the expected gun shots, punches or someone suddenly touching you in a horror game (!). These included the recoil of a weapon, the air when you take a sky dive, a comforting healing feel, the bite of a swarm of insects, or how a dagger stabs your belly, penetrates and pierces through your back.
This sense of touch in games can be implemented via Owo's own SDK directly by devs, or via the Overwolf libraries in games such as Fortnite or Valorant, as it's meant for gaming in general and not just its most obvious VR use. Devs only have to decide "player, number of sensations and where do you want to feel it", and then the intensity for each patch and sensation.
"After CES everyone wants to work with Owo", Jose tells us about the feedback they got in Vegas, talking about both small and big companies including your usual suspects. "We're talking with everyone, to be honest we want to offer a solution for all", he says about having Owo as the exclusive vest for one of the main VR headsets. At any rate, it will keep touring and next stop is GDC for developers to learn how to use it.
Owo will launch later in 2022 at a price point below the 500 euros mark, in unisex S, M, L, and XL sizes, while a more fitting female version is currently being looked at. If you want to learn about how it actually feels, we'll come back with more about Owo at Gamereactor with our full
hands-on body-in impressions soon.