How Razer is bringing vibrant “soundtracks” to tomorrow’s games and movies
At GDC 2023, I sat in the office of gaming accessory company Razer and felt something I’ve never felt before: playing a video game and vibrating my controller and headphones at different intensities that I could adjust to my liking. Then I watched a blockbuster superhero movie with action-appropriate headset vibes – all powered by the same software.
The software development kit, or SDK, created by technology studio Interhaptics, which was acquired by Razer last year, makes it easy for companies to add vibration to their games, movies and other media. Interhaptics founder Eric Vezzoli, now General Manager of Interhaptics at Razer, gave me a demonstration of what the software can do.
He noted that the software only takes a day to implement in a game, and then vibrations will be automatically added for any feedback device, whether it’s a controller, a smartphone, a headset, haptic vest or other device. Even if a developer adds devices with different vibration frequency ranges, the software can add haptic feedback tailored to each device. This simplifies the process when, for example, you’re trying to set similar vibration levels on iPhones and Android phones, which have very different vibration ranges.
“We take the designer’s intent and translate it into machine capability,” Vezzoli said.
Haptic compositing software, as it’s aptly called, also puts vibration control in the hands of gamers. In the demo of the game I played, I was able to toggle if vibrations were occurring when triggered by my character, enemies, or the environment, as well as dampening them if they were too intense. The software put the control of vibration feedback in my hands.
The SDK software has launched with support for PS4, PS5, Meta Quest 2, and X-input controllers, as well as iOS and Android phones. Developers can configure custom vibrations for potentially any number of different devices with haptics, allowing them to pulse or vibrate at different intensities to convey any emotion or action suitable for the game or movie scene.
This list of devices includes the Razer Kraken V3 HyperSense headphones, which have haptic motors distributed around both ear cups and are the headphones I wore for the demo. While I was playing the simple dungeon crawler game that Vezzoli and his team built to show off the SDK, every swing of my character’s sword pulsed vibrations around my ears, while enemies hitting my character buzzed my ears. in a significantly different way.
Then I watched scenes from movies with helmet vibrations coinciding with exciting moments – buzzing as a superhero uses his powers, or, during suspenseful silence, pulsating at a subtly alternating low frequency between the ears, like a heartbeat.
To be honest, it was weird to have headphones buzzing around my ears with dynamic patterns – the crackle of heartbeats or the triumphant vibrating explosions of superheroes battling each other, which I have the used to hearing via sound effects, without feeling my skin.
But I could see how, if I got used to the dynamic vibrations around my ears – or with future devices, elsewhere on my body – they could make entertainment more immersive. I remember discovering how listening to footsteps made me better at finding enemies in first-person shooters, and dynamic vibrations from explosions or activity could also point me in the right direction. direction. Movies and shows, which rely on visuals and soundscapes to convey tone and mood, could add a new layer with haptics — and the technology seems perfectly suited for VR developers to add texture to their immersive worlds.
Razer and Interhaptics’ software is admittedly a bit forward-looking, as controllers and smartphones are far more common than vibrating headphones or other peripherals. But the company sends dev kits with the Razer Kraken V3 HyperSense headphones for developers to try adding the SDK software to their game.
“It’s a different kind of experience, and we think we can drive tremendous value from a user experience playing these games,” Vezzoli said.
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