The Day I Got to Throw Fireballs, Feel Music and See the Future
I instantly feel like a superhero. As soon as I zip into the jet-black, skin-tight, space-agey Teslasuit, I am mentally transported. And that’s before I even put on the VR goggles.
But first, what is this metaverse-worthy new technology? Teslasuit, which EPAM is supporting as an investor, is a full-body wearable and human-digital interface. By delivering electricity across the user’s body, it can simulate a gentle rain, a punch in the gut or a wide range of sensations in between—anywhere on the user’s body. With the suit as the medium, electrical stimulation and climate control combine to mimic haptic experiences. That means you feel whatever is programmed; the current might massage your back or pulse through your arm as you throw a fireball at a target (I could have done the latter all day).
The Teslasuit can also collect biometrics and perform motion capture, which, in combination with the haptic input, could revolutionize healthcare, but we’ll get to that.
The potential applications are endless and exciting, but today I get to focus on fun. The first step is calibration. Sergei Nossoff, the CEO of Teslasuit, sits at a laptop and delivers a sizzling sensation to my arms and then my back and, finally, my legs. Sometimes it’s a slight tickle, and sometimes it makes me jump (I can be a bit theatrical).
“How do you like logging into your clothes?” asks Nossoff, as he clicks to highlight my trapezius using an onscreen diagram of the human body. He wants to zap me so that I feel it just the right amount.
“Can you take more?” he asks.
One of my colleagues shouts: “Five percent extra!”
I clarify that I don’t want the military treatment, which we learned about earlier. Soldiers must be able to bear pain and discomfort in battle and continue to function effectively, and Teslasuit can provide training for that. Not today, but thanks.
After calibration, the extended-reality (XR) experience begins. I put on the virtual reality (VR) goggles and my real-world surroundings melt away as I am transported to a luminescent room with a selection of activities ringing the perimeter. It’s hard to choose. I could scratch my own back or stand in front of a giant fan or, my first choice, “feel the music.” Using the controller to teleport myself over to a virtual jukebox, I push a cyber-button with the controller and music blares as electricity dances off my skin in time to the tunes.
I burst out laughing, throw my arms up and announce, “I can definitely feel the music! Wow! I can feel that all over!”
“That’s the idea,” says Nossoff, not quite suppressing a chuckle.
My imagination keeps returning to acupuncture, which I’ve never experienced. I picture fiber-thin needles of electricity prickling all over me, in a nice way. Earlier, Nossoff explained that muscles generate electricity, so the Teslasuit is inverting that idea—activating muscles externally for a variety of use cases.
This must be what it’s like to be a character in Ready Player One, the book-turned-movie that imagines a future in gaming that looks a lot like this. I am immersed in a virtual world in a way few people have experienced. Not just seeing an alternate reality but feeling it.
While my experience was all about haptic (sense of touch) feedback, Teslasuit also features motion capture and real-time biometric data gathering, both key for healthcare applications.
Teslasuit has a research agreement with Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), a leader in orthopedics, to develop products using these capabilities.
“The focus of our partnership with HSS is to create a product to allow patients to be treated remotely as well as be diagnosed remotely,” Nossoff tells Elaina Shekhter, EPAM’s chief marketing and strategy officer, in The Resonance Test podcast.
The current, delivered through wireless circuits embedded in the Teslasuit, can literally raise a person’s arm, delivering rehab like never before. And motion capture allows healthcare providers to precisely see how a body is moving. Understanding a person’s gait, for example, can give providers a wealth of information about how a person is doing.
The smart suit can tell a provider, such as a physical therapist, how stressed a patient is becoming (via heart rate, oxygenation, respiration rate and other indicators) and use that intel to tailor a session in the moment. Was that move less stressful for the patient than last week? Biometrics offer data to answer that question instead of relying on only qualitative estimates.
Motion capture is also critical for applications in sports training. Imagine being guided to perfect your golf swing, or any other athletic pose or movement, using pre-programmed, full body input from a pro.
On-the-job training in dangerous fields—for, say, first responders—could be transformed using virtual reality in combination with the Teslasuit, to guide trainees in the key movements they need to learn to do their jobs safely. The prompts provided by electricity trigger muscle memory as a trainee is physically encouraged to go through the steps needed to close a valve on an oil rig in an emergency or participate in a manufacturing process that is dangerous, before taking real risks. Combining visual and muscle memory makes for an unparalleled teaching tool.
Teslasuit is a platform that can be used by companies—in healthcare, aerospace, gaming and more—to create any number of products that will make our lives better. It opens up opportunities that haven’t even been imagined yet.
As an investor, EPAM gets to brainstorm the future with Teslasuit, which is thrilling. But as I slip out of my super skin, all I can think is, “My 11-year-old is going to be so jealous.”