Virtual reality is on the horizon, and many expect it to be the next big revolution for gaming. Although virtual reality headsets such as Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus are going to be a big step forward, there’s one important ingredient of immersion that’s missing: physical feedback. That’s where the KOR-FX Gaming Vest steps in.
The KOR-FX is a vest specifically designed for gaming applications that provides what its developer, Immerz, Inc., calls “pinpointed high-definition haptic feedback”. In other words, it transmits output from games that you can feel while you play. It’s something that’s never been done successfully at a consumer grade before. Has the KOR-FX struck gold?
Preparing for Deployment
When it comes to packaging, the KOR-FX aims for simplicity. Included in its branded box is a dongle, a couple cables, and the KOR-FX Gaming Vest. This simplicity is a mantra of the KOR-FX, with its installation and operation being, for the most part, hassle free.
One cable routes from a 3.5mm audio jack on your gaming device (PC, laptop, etc.) to the dongle, and then you’ll need an audio device plugged into line-out. While headphones are recommended for isolation, the vest can be used with speakers. If you have a high-quality subwoofer, you may just want to defer to the latter as it complements the attributes of the KOR-FX well.
The KOR-FX isn’t as bulky as you might expect.
You may find issue with the length of the cables as they are about two feet long. Unless you invest in aftermarket cables, you’re likely going to have to sit the dongle in a sub-optimal place. In many gaming environments, that means it’ll be too far away to plug earbuds into without an extension cable.
There’s also the question of where the dongle receives its power from. There is a USB cable included that can be used as your solution. Alternatively, you can use six AA batteries, but that’s not recommended.
Once the dongle is fully connected, all you need to do is pair the vest with the dongle by pressing sync buttons on both devices. After that, you’re all set. Time to take to battle.
In the Heat of Battle
The level of feedback that the KOR-FX offers may initially surprise you. When broken in (eight or more hours) and calibrated, it rumbles with the force of five thunderstorms. In intense games like Battlefield 4, this translates into an initially hazardous environment; you may just find yourself cautiously engaging foes.
After several hours of experience, the KOR-FX becomes second nature. The feedback of nearby explosions, received damage, and collisions isn’t just telegraphed visually, you feel it. No longer are momentous occasions limited to two senses. With the KOR-FX, you can see, hear, and feel these moments. As much as strapping into the vest is yet another measure to think about before your gaming sessions, you may just come to the conclusion that you’re missing something without it.
Though, the KOR-FX has some flaws due to its audio-driven, software-less nature. When playing first-person shooters in particular you will notice that the most important feedback isn’t accentuated any more than other sources. Your expectation might be that feeling gunshots and explosions is the main purpose of the device. You may be disappointed to find that the KOR-FX doesn’t play favoritism with audio. The force of the vest is purely determined by audio volume, so you’ll most feel whatever is the loudest.
Its design also means that environmental audio will be translated into subtle rumbles. When playing in games that have a lot of background noise you’ll constantly feel a light buzz on your chest accompanied by mild audio output. This can be remedied by reducing the feedback level of the device (there are buttons on the vest), but as you reduce the feedback power everything else is reduced along with the ambient noise. So, say goodbye to heart-attack causing grenades.
Furthermore, you can say that a lot of the experience comes down to calibration. For each game you’ll need to find a perfect level of volume, and there’s no KOR-FX software to support your quest to fine-tune every game. At the very least you’ll want to break the vest in for eight or more hours to ensure that it’s working efficiently.
The Whole Package
During long sessions of play the KOR-FX is unlikely to be burdensome. It’s lightweight, and mounts well over the shoulders distributing the weight evenly with sufficiently padded material. Speaking of materials, the build quality is great, matching its premium price tag with well-crafted hardware. It also looks good enough that it won’t make you look too silly while you play. If anything, you can expect anyone who sees you using it to ask about it.
Two of the four pouches seen on the device house the four AA batteries required to power it. The KOR-FX does tend to require a lot of juice to operate, so you’ll definitely want to consider using rechargeable batteries.
Notice the American flag patch in the center. You can equip a patch of your own.
If there were one area where the KOR-FX could benefit greatly from, it’s how it adapts to different gaming scenarios. In its current form, it has no software to drive it, making the experience between playing racing games, action-adventures, and even movies or music homogeneous.
At $150 the KOR-FX specifically targets gadget-lovers. It doesn’t do enough to impact the gaming experience in a meaningful way, but is fun to toy around with, especially when grouped with a virtual reality headset. Or better yet, toss a Virtuix Omni in there and you’ll practically be in the game environment.
Some games work better with the KOR-FX than others, especially mild first-person shooters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive where feedback can benefit the game experience, but the game isn’t too noisy that it makes it a violent device. In contrast, acoustically busy games like Battlefield 4 can be an intense ride, but at the very least are a great way to push the KOR-FX to its limits.
Ultimately, KOR-FX is the first of its kind. It succeeds in being simple, and delivering powerful feedback to gaming. It might not be the next big thing for games, but it does offer a new way to enjoy them in an attractive package.
Jonathan Leack is the Gaming Editor for CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter @jleack.
Review unit provided by manufacturer. KOR-FX is now available for purchase.