There's part of me that does not enjoy having to pan gaming-related projects that found life on Kickstarter – people often pour everything into their shot at success, and have done what it takes to convince hundreds of punters to take a chance on their vision. Of course, sometimes my sympathy runs dry.
In the case of Woojer, 1,710 punters dropped $143,377 (£90,436) to bring it to life. So what is it?
The Woojer PR machine proposes the device will deliver an "immersive audio experience by converting the sounds from your favourite music, games and movies into physical vibrations, making your body feel like it's being exposed to high acoustic energy."
Basically, it's a vibrating plastic box that reacts to audio input. Let's call a spade a spade here – it's not a "tactile polyphonic (multi-tone) patent-pending transducer that 'plays' the low frequencies." And just in case the name is misleading you, it's not an actual audio woofer – there are no audible frequencies produced – just vibrations. On that note (pun intended), at least it doesn't rattle.
Skimming through the selective pull-quotes proudly displayed on the Kickstarter page, you'd believe this thing is nothing short of revolutionary techno-voodoo – everyone from StarCraft 2 pro-gamers to Academy award nominated producers seem to have praise for the Woojer. Perhaps they were just more susceptible to "Perceptual Inference".
It seems the appeal and enjoyment of the Woojer is going to be a personal affair, so suffice to say there will be two kinds of people in this world: those who want a small audio-driven vibrator strapped or clipped to their body for an (estimated) retail price of $99 (£62); and those who don't.
If you are in the former camp, then the Woojer might interest you. Personally, I think it's annoying and instead of adding to an audio experience it rather distracts from it. I didn't ask for this thing, so you can take my opinion with a hefty shovel-load of salt.
I prefer my gaming or music listening pursuits to be hassle free, and aside from being uncomfortable to wear, this is yet another gizmo in constant need of charge (you'll eke four hours out of the built-in 700mAh battery, recharged via micro USB).
The wearer is invited to clip the device to a shirt collar or belt. The breastbone or base of spine seem to be sweet spots for carrying some vibration into your body – sorry, they are "opposite the acoustic meridian lines".
The clip on our review unit was quite flimsy and rather than exerting friction it relied on gravity to do its work. There is also a detachable magnetic bit which is supposed to add some versatility to where the Woojer is attached, but even through my thin T-shirt it didn't hold fast for long as a bit of movement dislodged it.
I'm not sure how pleasant or appealing it will be to shove a small vibrating box with protruding wires down the rear of your trousers, because this is what will be required to feel anything significant – simply clipping it to the outside of your belt doesn't deliver enough vibrational good times.
For the particularly active vibration seekers among us, there is an elastic 'sport' strap that should keep it in place. Admittedly I didn't feel like taking it for a jog around the block to test it out, but a bit of jumping up and down saw it remain in place, albeit in need of a post-jiggle adjustment.
Once strapped/clipped/wedged in place, one simply connects the preposterously short included 3.5mm lead to the Woojer and their audio source. Headphones connect to another 3.5mm jack. These are your only input/output options.
Fire up some back-thumping beats or a chest-pounding video game, flip the switch on, and prepare to feel – a slight persistent vibration.
Packing very little punch
Users have three vibration strength settings to choose, ranging from 'field mouse on the pull' to 'startled kitten'.
Seriously. This thing packs very little punch for a device which has one purpose in life – to vibrate (immersively). It's got considerably less wallop than an Xbox or PlayStation remote – and for the curious gamers among the potential client base, that is definitely the bar to meet and exceed.
The vibration action does scale up with volume, so once I was playing Battlefield 4 at ear-bleeding levels there was a decent continual buzz strapped to my chest.
The Woojer isn't particularly discerning in which frequencies are played back - it simply vibrates anything below 500Hz. That's a common area of pitch in the low-mid audio frequency range (as you can hear in the tone sample below). A typical male speaking voice ranges between 85 and 180Hz, and a female voice between 165 and 255Hz.
In Battlefield 4 it was everything from grenades, mortars, and machine guns, to radio chatter and bullets thudding into the wall behind. To this end, it was a constant stream of vibrations - some that were discernibly sourced from a large boom confirming to me through vibrations that indeed something did just explode in my ears - but nothing that particularly added to my gaming experience.
Where's the body-rattling immersion?
Listening to music, the vibrations came through a little clearer, in that I could pick up a steady thrum from bass guitars, a bit of punchiness from the kick drum, and the snap of the snare, but once the tempo picked up past the opening chords everything was washed out into a sea of vibration.
The problem is that the marketing rhetoric proclaimed the Woojer would produce body-rattling immersion akin to the front row at a Metallica concert, or the frontlines of some dystopian future-war, when in reality I get just about the same thrill from my electric razor.
On the other end of the scale you have the suggestion that it will subtly immerse the user into their meditation music or Zigeunerweisen's first violin movement. Again, this may prove a matter of personal taste or "Perceptual Inference" but I'm not convinced a classical composition has anything to gain from being vibrated at you.
If someone offered me £60 or a Woojer, I wouldn't hesitate to pocket the cash – then I'd buy the guy a beer to make up for him being stuck with a Woojer. The silver lining here is that the Kickstarter project leaders at least followed their concept through to completion and got a final product to their backers that delivered what it really promised all along – a vibrating plastic box drenched in hyperbole.