Best Seat In The House

The Intensor LX Gaming Chair claims it can make you feel a part of TV shows, rented films, sporting events and video games. Sounds shaky. But at our test site, the earth moved.

January 25, 2000|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,SUN STAFF

I have seen the future of home entertainment.

I have seen grown men with Michelob Lights balanced on their jiggly guts watch the NFL playoffs on TV, their salsa-stained faces radiant with joy as they "feel" the vicious hit a linebacker just laid on some poor wide receiver.

I have seen children kneel like supplicants before a Nintendo64 unit, squealing with delight as they squeeze off a glorious burst of rocket fire that wipes out 27 bad guys and reverberates around the den, even to the distant portrait of the poker-playing dogs.

I have seen women -- well, one woman, anyway, my wife -- wide-eyed with wonder, watching giant stegosauruses rumble through the jungle in "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," the vibrations from a four-channel sensory amplifier creating the sensation that the great beasts were stomping directly across the worn DuPont StainMaster carpeting.

I have seen the Intensor LX 350 Gaming Chair.

And if this is indeed the future of home entertainment, as many suspect, the question is this:

What hath God -- and Imeron, the fast-growing North Carolina technology firm -- wrought?

But you -- you're still stuck in the 20th century, aren't you? You still click on the tube and catch "Law and Order" through two tinny speakers buried in the bowels of your set.

And that's just fine and dandy with you, isn't it?

Not for long, my friend.

Not with the Intensor just a credit-card swipe away.

The Intensor's stats

OK, exactly what is the Intensor LX?

Basically, it's a molded, ergonomically designed chair with a built-in speaker system that "immerses" the user in surround-sound and provides "tactile feedback" -- a fancy way of saying you actually feel thumps and vibrations from the sound.

The Intensor enhances sports on TV; fans of the chair claim it gives you the feeling of, say, sitting on the 50-yard-line at a football game and having the various sounds of the stadium -- the crowd noise, the pulsing music, the crunch of helmets and pads colliding -- wash over you.

And all without some drunk spilling beer on the back of your parka.

The Intensor can also be used to intensify TV or rental movies and video or PC games. It's been a huge hit with techno-freaks and the chronically sedentary so far, making fat men fatter and slack-jawed children even more slack-jawed, as they sit -- yes, immersed -- in front of the TV or computer screen.

"The most constant anecdotal feedback we've gotten from users and reviewers is that it puts you in the action," said Bill Beres, Imeron's senior vice-president for sales and marketing.

Beres was speaking from Imeron headquarters in Cary, N.C., nestled in the Research Triangle area of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill.

Outside his window, the town was still digging out of a freak winter snowstorm that dumped six inches of snow on the area, with more in the forecast.

But inside Imeron, the sun was shining, at least metaphorically, the phones were ringing and the smell of new money was in the air.

`Out-of-body experience'

In the last three months of last year, Beres said, Imeron shipped 20,000 chairs to stores such as CompUSA, Sam's Club and Costco, and sold more than 7,000 at around $170 a pop.

The company plans to ship another 12,000 in the first three months of this year, with sales reported brisk at such online sites as Amazon.com and eBay.

The Intensor has been on the market for only eight months, but with a sound range up to 108 decibels (about what you'd hear on an active airport runway), it's attracting new fans every day.

Beres said he uses the chair all the time. He uses it for NFL games and hooks it up to his CD player to hear classical music and marches by John Phillip Sousa.

"But the most dramatic thing you can do," Beres said, "is use it on a flight-simulator game" such as Combat Flight Sim.

"When the aircraft is flying and you energize the system to lower flaps and let the wheels down, you can actually feel the wind blowing," he says, breathlessly. "You feel, through the vibrations, that you're affecting the air flow and making that plane land."

"Psychologically," he said, "a tunnel develops between you and the event, like an out-of-body experience."

Whoa! An out-of-body experience! I hadn't had one of those in a while.

In fact, the last time I had an out-of-body experience was, well ... never.

So I asked Beres if he could ship an Intensor to The Sun, so we could test-drive it, so to speak, and possibly enjoy an out-of-body experience of our own.

"It'll be there day after tomorrow," he said.

Terrific. Just in time for the NFL playoffs.

I marked the calendar and laid in a supply of Baked Tostitos, salsa, soda and Michelob Light to await the big day.

Plan of attack

The future of home entertainment arrived in a large cardboard box, borne by a tired-looking UPS man who said he was just getting over the flu.

The Intensor was fairly easy to assemble. Attach the base (with five "easy-roll" casters), plug in a few cords, and you're in business.

Our plan for testing it was simple.

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