Slave to the Game

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LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A US surgeon working on a "tele-health" breakthrough has devised a way for video game warriors to feel shots, stabs, slams, and hits dealt to their on-screen characters.

A vest designed by doctor Mark Ombrellaro uses air pressure and feedback from computer games to deliver pneumatic thumps to the spots on players' torsos where they would have been struck were they actually on the battlefields.

The "3rd Space" vest will make its US debut in November at a price of 189 dollars. It will be launched with the first-person shooter game "Call of Duty" and a custom-made title.

"It was originally designed as a medical device," Ombrellaro told AFP while letting gamers try the vest at the E for All video game exposition in Los Angeles.

"To give medical exams via the Internet to prisoners, the elderly, those in rural communities and other isolated people."

The medical version of the vest is more sophisticated, enabling doctors sitting at their computers to prod, poke and press patients' bodies from afar and get feedback on what they are virtually feeling, according to Ombrellaro.

That model is pending approval by the US Food and Drug Administration, which wants to be assured that diagnosis made using the vests are reliable.

"You can teleconference with patients but you are missing the hands-on," the vascular surgeon said. "Being able to do that is the last step to tele-health."

A 3rd Space vest that mimics the feeling of G-forces and turning pressures for flight and car games is to be launched early next year, after Ombrellaro's company TN Games finds exciting titles to match it with.

TN Games is based in technology giant Microsoft's home town of Redmond, Washington.

"We've had some Microsoft people check it out," Ombrellaro said.

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