A new sound experience

In 2019 Benjamin Heese, together with some partners, founded Feelbelt. The new technology makes sound tactile and creates a brand-new experience through haptic feedback. We spoke with Benjamin about Feelbelt and what is behind the award-winning technology.

 

First, please tell us a bit about Feelbelt – what is it exactly?

Feelbelt is a start-up from Potsdam Babelsberg. We make sound tactile. You can experience any content, for example, a game or a video, with the Feelbelt. It takes the audio signal, converts it into haptic feedback and transfers it to your body. Ten integrated impulse generators work synchronously with what you hear and reproduce the sounds as if in stereo - spatially. And that's what's remarkable: The Feelbelt not only says: haptic feedback yes or no but also differentiates between direction and intensity.

How does it work in terms of technology?

The technology, i.e. our software, is the real innovation - the heart of Feelbelt. It picks up on the audio signal and analyses the respective soundtrack. For this reason, it is entirely irrelevant which sound source it is: It can be a smartphone, a console, a TV - it doesn't matter. The software converts the sound and plays it back in stereo. So you can perceive it spatially from different directions. Another unique feature is that thunderous sounds are reproduced with corresponding intensity. So you can feel an explosion in a film very strongly. You can control how intense your experience should be via the app by adjusting the haptic feedbacks intensity. You can also choose between different modes, such as gaming or music.

Of course, I cannot reveal how this works in detail. We have a patent on the software.

 

Before such an innovation, there must be the idea. When did it come up and how did you manage to make it possible?

Dipl.-Ing. Jens Hansen came up with the idea. I like to call him our own Gyro Gearloose. He has already developed several innovations in the audio field. I came into contact with Jens a few years ago by happy coincidence. It was immediately clear to me that this idea had potential. This product has to go on the market.

One of my Big Five for Live (book by John Strelecky) is to build a company from scratch and lead it to an exit. The opportunity was there, so in 2019 we founded Feelbelt with some professional partners.

An idea is only as good as the people who bring it to reality. Can you tell us a bit about your team and what they contribute to the project?

Feelbelt is a team effort. I have a clear idea of who fits into the team. For me, it's less about an excellent CV and more about your mindset and the ability to learn quickly: What are your passions? What do you want to achieve in life? How can I help you achieve it? If the motivation is appropriate and you have some skills, then things usually go very quickly. I also rely a lot on my gut feeling. Various people work at Feelbelt who are highly motivated, have great potential and stand on several legs. Most of them have their own startup.

How did you finance this project? Was public funding involved as well?

We completed a first seed funding round in early 2020 and then went through two crowdfunding campaigns (Kickstarter & Indiegogo). Besides, the state of Brandenburg is very startup-friendly - we receive some funding. We have built up an extensive network through the MediaTech Hub's accelerator programme, which means we keep meeting potential investors, for example, at the annual Investors Dinner. We are currently paving the way to Series A. As the Bridge, our crowdinvest on Seedmatch is now running until 9 April 2021. The crowdinvest works similarly to crowdfunding, except that it involves investments. From 250€, every private and legal person can become a part of Feelbelt. Of course, there are still goodies. For example, we are planning a virtual and an actual racing event at the Nürburgring.

 

Why did you decide to locate in Potsdam? What are the best perks of the capital region for you?

I was born and grew up near Potsdam. So it's just close to my heart to start up and build a business here. Potsdam also offers so many opportunities. Babelsberg is the Hollywood of Germany. On the grounds of Studio Babelsberg, where we are based, we made lots of contacts that have since developed into genuine partnerships. The network here is enormous - you have to use it. In 2021, we then started working in our new premises in the UFA building. The symbiosis that this creates between an established corporation and an up-and-coming start-up, both at home in the media industry, is immense. The cooperation between us and UFA is really great.

What advantages brings your technology for hearing impaired people?

I think we have a huge impact here. Deaf people can perceive sounds visually, for example, when they are translated into sign language or when they read something like "sad music". But how does it feel? The Feelbelt can finely distinguish between high and low tones. High tones are felt in the stomach area and low frequencies in the back. This gives these people the chance to perceive and get to know sound in a new way. Of course, this is also true for everyone else. But for the hearing impaired, it is probably something extraordinary. We were able to witness live how a deaf woman tried out the Feelbelt at the IFA. She was crying. That was a very formative experience for us.

Can you tell us a bit about the connection to video games and how the Feelbelt can be used for gamers?

Here extends a great strength of the technology: by including the sense of touch, you get a new possibility to react to events in the game. Until now, you had to rely exclusively on your hearing and your eyes. Now, however, your largest sense organ is also included: your skin. Our receptors are susceptible and receptive to minor changes. So it's no longer just hand-eye coordination, but also hand-skin coordination. This can offer a substantial strategic advantage in gaming. Here's a convenient example: You listen to music and float in your very own world. You are no longer aware of your surroundings. A colleague speaks to you. You do not hear him. He dances around in front of you to attract your attention. You don't notice that either. He taps your shoulder: now you react to the haptic stimulus. So you can respond faster to everything that happens if you integrate the Feelbelt. On the other hand, it makes you dive even deeper into your experience.

 

Thank you very much Benjamin!

×
×
×