Connie beamed with a smile as she danced along to the reverberations coming from the ImmersX Tactile Body Immersion (TBI) chair.
ImmersX Inc. is a Toronto based technology company that visited the Sensity Resource Centre recently to demonstrate the potential of this innovative tool and how their vibro-tactile chair can benefit people who are deafblind.
A number of deafblind people and some staff attended the session and had the opportunity to experience ‘feeling sound’ and the resultant positive emotions associated with it.
The patented technology takes any audio signal like music and separates it into different frequencies that are mapped to various parts of the body. People sitting in the ImmersX chair feel the low frequencies, such as a bass, on the back of their thighs and backside, mid-range frequencies on their lower back and the high frequencies below their shoulders.
Chris Meraw, ImmersX CEO compared it to hearing music from a high-end tower speaker with a tweeter, mid-range and subwoofer.
“You get a much fuller spatial sound to the ears. This is the same concept with the vibrations from the chair delivering more of a spatial feeling into the body,” he explained.
“What’s happening here scientifically is that when the transducers are vibrating on your body, they’re creating an electrical potential which goes up the efferent nerves to your thalamus. Everything ends up in your prefrontal cortex, and your brain goes, ‘I heard something.’ But it’s wrong – the brain didn’t hear it through the ear, it felt it through the skin,” Chris said.
“This is known as sensory substitution. A natural process where our brain dynamically and intuitively internalizes the sound. So whether you’re deaf or not, it will have a profound effect on anyone who sits in the chair while listening to music, playing a video game, or watching a movie,” he explained.
For those with no hearing who sat in the chair, the sound was within them, not coming from the speaker to their ears creating a dramatic sense of body immersion!
Consumers trying the chair included Andreina, Connie, Alecia, Steven, Daniel, Dorell and Luca.
Andreina began by listening to Tibetan bowl music, which features chimes of different frequencies. She really responded emotionally to “more bassy” music by R&B hip-hop artist Khalid. Intervenor Brittany said Andreina likes music with heavy bass.
Alecia jolted back in the chair in response to the fighter jet taking off when the ImmersX team played the trailer for the new Top Gun movie on an iPad.
Next, the ImmersX visitors made a “house call” to Apt. 2 allowing Daniel, Dorell and Luca to experience the body immersion.
Daniel was calmed by the music. He started off sitting cross-legged, but as he relaxed he placed his feet on the floor, enabling him to experience more vibrations in his lower body.
Intervenor Jeanette demonstrated quick thinking after trying the chair. Luca was reluctant to move from his wheelchair to the ImmersX chair, but Jeanette placed Luca’s feet on the chair to feel the vibrations to one of his favourite bands, the Beatles.
“This is cool,” said Cerenna, a student from W. Ross Macdonald School on a co-op placement with Sensity.
John Jr. tried the experience first with both his hearing aids and glasses and for the second part he decided to completely remove his senses, which to him really enhanced his experience.
All in all, the ImmersX vibro-tactile chair elicited many positive emotions and reactions that had a calming effect, a sense of enjoyment as well as a few smiles along the way.
This is the third pre-commercial prototype of the chair, which is not yet available for sale. ImmersX is hoping to bring the chairs to market in March or April 2020.
We will continue to explore the potential for incorporating the vibro-tactile chair into programming. Possibilities include music therapy and the Snoezelen room.
Our interest in the chair was sparked by an article in the Globe and Mail newspaper. We contacted Ryerson University researcher Dr. Frank Russo, who quickly connected us with the ImmersX team.
Further inquiries can be directed to Chris Kostka - Presidient at ckostka@ImmersX.com.