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System Offers Chance to See and ‘Feel’ Movie

12 Apr, 2001 By: Jessica Wolf

In 1974 during the movie Earthquake, theater audiences were introduced to Sensurround, an advanced stereo system that jolted high-intensity soundwaves to shake audience seats during the quake scenes.

Now, Quebec-based D-box, manufacturer of high-end subwoofer systems and home theater equipment, has expanded and enhanced this idea to bring a similar experience home.

For a mere $16,000 suggested retail price, you can own the patented Odyssee 1.4 Motion Simulation system. Once hooked up beneath a chair or couch, Odyssee works in tandem with a DVD to bring movies to life with more than Surround Sound can offer—with actual motion and vibrations that correspond to a DVD’s onscreen action.

D-Box president Michel Jacques says the Odyssee can enhance any movie, though the catalog of Odyssee--compatible DVDs primarily includes action films. “It adds a sense of drama not only to action movies, [but] to any movie,” he says.

Jacques uses the movie Contact as an example. He says watching the film with the Odyssee allows the viewer to experience all the jolts and jostles that Jodie Foster’s character does during her space-ship ride.

He admits that as of right now, because of the price, the technology is available to a rather elite demographic. D-Box debuted the Odyssee prototype at the Consumer Electronics show in 1999, and since it became available to consumers this January, the company has sold 30 individual Odyssee units across the globe to very wealthy people, Jacques says.

But Jacques points out that every new technology has been expensive at first and he thinks Odyssee-type technology will evolve to more affordable levels in the future.

“I sincerely believe that this is more than just a gadget for the rich and famous,” he says. “This is a new technology that will find its way to a larger consumer base.”

There are four essential operating parts to the Odyssee (in addition to a DVD player and stereo equipment). The Kenetron Controller, which has the computing power of five Pentium Processors and includes an F/X CD-ROM player, is about the size of a standard stereo component and is designed to sit in the same area as the DVD player. It is linked to four “Actuators” by a cable that transfers the motion samples to the Actuators. The Actuators are what create the physical motion, and are mounted underneath a sofa or other seating. The motion information comes from a CD-ROM that is programmed with digital F/X motion codes that correspond to each frame of the DVD. Jacques says the company is constantly expanding its library of codes and each month sends out an updated CD-ROM to Odyssee owners that contains the entire catalog of motion-enhanced titles. Among the approximately 50 movies already available are Jurassic Park, The Abyss, The Cell, The Perfect Storm, The Matrix, Twister and X-Men. And Jacques says the company is adding codes for about two movies each week.

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