Published: Jun 21, 2017
Updated: Jun 21, 2017

WhirlwindFX: Extending the sense of touch to your TV watching experience

Author: Christy Roland

WhirlwindFX at SHAPEGuest post by Tim Sun, CEO and Founder, WhirlwindFX

I just finished watching the Golden State Warriors defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game two of the NBA finals. From the wide screen TV, I got the best viewing angles, replays, and commentary to complement the exciting action of the extraordinary players. After the game, I should have felt exhilarated and relieved that my team (the Warriors) were able to come out with a win. But, I was unsatisfied.


I just sat there wishing I was at the stadium, living in the action. I wanted to feel the heat from the flames of the pyrotechnics and vibrations from the synchronized chants of “Defense.” The exhilaration of a sporting event is unparalleled, and actually being present in the event is what is so alluring of an experience that commands an extremely high ticket price. Our lives are a collection of memories of the experiences we have, and these experiences are broken down into inputs and outputs.


I asked myself what was it that drove the desire to attend a NBA finals game in person. Viewing the game on TV, I was able to see and hear the game with clarity, but it was definitely a far inferior experience for me. It is the activation of the other senses that really drive my desire to be there, and in the end, have that much better of an experience.


The sense that I am referring to that never gets enough credit is somatosensation or sense of touch. The reason your sense of touch is often neglected in the five senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch) is because it is so closely tied to your other senses. However, touch is key having to a full entertainment experience. The word “touch” does not give it justice as the sense of touch is broken down into multiple, different sub sensations. Sense of touch has ever complex and numerous sensations that you can distinguish as a human. As you plunge into a pool, not only do you feel the impact as your feet hit the water, but the cold water chills your entire body. At Oracle Arena, the intensity of the basketball game is magnified by feeling the body heat of your friend sitting next to you and the vibrations from the roar of the crowd. What makes the human experience visceral and memorable is our ability to process all these sensory inputs in combination.


Our sense of touch help us navigate the world around us. The most obvious is tactile feedback, which is feeling texture, force, and direction. The next sensation is temperature detection, which roots us in our environment, and lastly the sense of pain tells us when we are injured. Your sense of touch is rooted in storytelling. It sets the stage for your experience and can hold your attention. Enticing your sense of touch can evoke emotional responses and empathy that can change your behavior and even change your life.


Originally, our five senses were evolutionary advantages that would promote survival. Thanks to the evolution of technology, we have developed the capacity to control and create these sensations artificially. Our televisions have gone from black and white with no audio to 4K screen technology and surround sound. These enhanced experiences provide a better way to tell stories, entertain and entice the senses. Although the visual and audio experience improves, it’s not enough to draw you into the experience and fully immerse you into the action. This makes for an incredibly small experience that lacks that visceral emotional reaction that we crave. What’s missing are things like actually experiencing the heat from that flame thrower you pick up to waste your enemies while playing your favorite PC game, or feeling the cool gust of air as you cast an ice wall. Being able to control and evoke your sense of touch can do what we ultimately want to achieve with storytelling: recreate a full and immersive experience. Wouldn’t you want sit in the first row at a NBA finals game and actually feel the crowd without having to pay that premium price? I know I would. Recreating these type of experiences is what we are trying to build at WhirlwindFX. Feeling is believing. Live the Action.


Come check us out at AT&T SHAPE next month on July 14-15, 2017 in Los Angeles, California, at Warner Bros. Studios.

Share this post