Samsung Demos New Motion-Simulating VR Tech at SXSW

Continues Push in Virtual Reality With Headphones That Affect Balance

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Samsung Gear VR fans might soon have the option of adding a new component to their headwear: headphones that make people feel like they're in motion.

The Entrim 4D headphones, which Samsung announced at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Tex., gives the sensation of movement by sending electronic messages to the nerve in the ear that maintains balance, according to the company. The process is known among scientists as Galvanic vestibular stimulation, Samsung said.

"Electrical signals -- like the ones used to help restore balance in stroke patients -- are delivered via headphones equipped with electrodes that correspond with movement data input by engineers," the company said in a statement. "Users thus feel as if they are part of the on-screen action, and can also sense direction and speed of movement."

Conference attendees who tried out the headphones at SXSW were taken to a virtual racetrack.

Samsung said the Entrim 4D headphones can also make a person "feel like they are flying" when paired with its Creative Lab's Drone FPV, or first-person view, using data from a drone's motion sensors. It is also working on a version that will use additional electrodes to create a sense of "rotational motion," perhaps further giving hint to a possible flight simulation.

The Entrim 4D team is made up of an eclectic mix of hardware professionals, software engineers and biomedical engineering experts, Samsung said. They have conducted experiments on more than 1,500 people and developed 30 different movement patterns.

The technology is not available to consumer yet, nor was a release date or price given.

Virtual reality was one of the themes of the conference, with Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly calling it one of the 12 "inevitable tech forces that will shape our future" during a keynote on Monday. "I'm predicting that VR will become the most social of all the social media," he said.

The tech was also a common marketing tactic for brands at South by Southwest, with Budweiser offering a virtual tour of a brewery at the Budweiser Beer Garage and McDonald's letting attendees "paint" the inside of a virtual Happy Meal at McDonald's Loft.

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