One of the first times that we encountered haptics
, or the study of force feedback, was while playing StarFox 64 back in 1997 (was it really that long ago?), with its Rumble Pak -- that little motor that shook the whole controller
every time you sustained a laser hit. Today, haptics has gone from the realm of stellar video games to simulating the edge of a knife. A team of Mexican and Italian scientists announced last week that they've created virtual surfaces to fool the brain into thinking that a flat surface is actually bumpy or pointed. The researchers created a system called GRAB, which consists of a mechanized thimble, connected to the end of a motorized arm. Once the subject puts a finger inside the thimble, various motors create force feedback, and limit motion along a left-right axis, all of which could be used in medical robotics and training, so that surgeon hopefuls can better simulate operations without actually cutting any flesh. Better yet, if these scientists continue along this route, by the time the next version of Call of Duty comes out, receiving a bayonet jab may feel really close to actually drawing blood.