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For deaf and hard of hearing gamers, a better experience with the Emoti-Chair

By Antoinette Mercurio

Gaming in the Emoti-Chair

Deaf or hard of hearing gamers can experience a new sense of play at the Emoti-Chair gaming clinics run by third-year mechanical engineering student Calvin Chan at the Ted Rogers School of Management.

Gamers who are deaf or hard of hearing can now experience the sound of their play with a research project underway at Ryerson.
A cross-modal, audio-tactile display chair that allows deaf or hard of hearing people to feel the vibrations of music and sound, the Emoti-Chair has been revamped for gaming purposes as well.

PhD candidate Carmen Branje, who is part of the Emoti-Chair research team, pursued the gaming idea.

"The Emoti-Chair is about conveying emotion. We've found evidence that people who watch the horror films while in the Emoti-Chair have a stronger physiological reaction - we interpret this as being more scared. We're hoping there will be a similar reaction to gaming," Branje explained.

Gaming while in the chair works the same way as when the chair is used for listening to music or watching movies. The entertainment system is hooked up to a computer and split into eight different frequencies that are connected to voice coils in the chair. As the individual plays, sound creates vibration and, as a result, the gamer can experience what's happening on-screen.

People can have a chance to test out the Emoti-Chair with PlayStation on the ninth floor of the Ted Rogers School of Management building. Third-year mechanical engineering student Calvin Chan and fourth-year computer engineering student Sai Chaitanya are running gaming clinics every Friday from 12:30 to 5 p.m. until May 1. Both students are conducting surveys to find out how to improve the system.

Developed by researchers from the Ted Rogers School of Management Centre for Learning Technologies (CLT) and the Department of Psychology's Science of Music, Auditory Research and Technology (SMART) lab, the Emoti-Chair is embedded with voice coils which stimulate a user's senses by syncing individual notes and sounds with vibrations and rocking motions at different intensities to give a multi-sensory experience. Designed to emulate the human cochlea - the auditory portion of the inner ear - each chair is equipped with hardware and software that work together to transmit varying levels of frequency to the user. CLT director and professor from the Ted Rogers School of Information Technology Management Deborah Fels began her research on Emoti-Chair technology four years ago with associate and artist Graham Smith and Frank Russo, psychology professor and SMART lab director.

The CLT team is working towards commercialization of the chair, aiming to have a final prototype by September 2010. For now, the Emoti-Chair continues to make appearances in the community at public events such as the upcoming Nuit Blanche in the fall and the Deaf Culture Centre in the Distillery District houses a permanent installation of the chair's technology.

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