November 29 2018
Haptic Feedback: Why it’s crucial to the growth of Virtual Reality.
The fantasy of every virtual reality creator either content or development is to get to the point where we can’t tell the difference between what is real and virtual. In my last article I speak a lot about that aka: the matrix moment. Truth be told, there are a lot of startups developing technologies to help expanded VR’s immersion beyond that of its current state. No doubt. It’s effectively the missing link to a fuller experience, as currently anything in VR lacks the sensation of ‘touch’, ‘warmth, and even impact.
Think of playing a shooter game and getting hit by a virtual bullet and feeling them.
The important thing to note is what ‘haptic feedback’ really means, as it’s a term that can been thrown around a lot. Essentially, it’s information being relayed from a device to you through your tactile senses – or skin, in this case. A strait forward example is the vibrations your cell phone gives off in order to notify you of a received a text or incoming call. This is considered vibration feedback, which is merely one form of the haptic feedback spectrum that is being cleverly used for VR. Used right, haptics make VR a revolutionary force to be reckoned with.
Check out Phenomena’s Haptics VPX prototypes in the video below:
Now let’s have a look at what else is on the market – A handful of small, haptic peripherals are making their rounds with other VR developers. This would include ones that have recently been touched upon, such as VRGluv and Unlimited Touch. Both can provide the means of feeling the virtual reality with your hands, albeit with different ways. The former is a glove that uses force feedback which restricts hand movement to realistically match the contours of the virtual object you’re holding… pause… This is awesome. Meanwhile, the latter is an arm band peripheral that uses “electric muscle stimulation” (EMS) that can help simulate the recoil of a gun, or generate the sensation of touch. Again… ridiculously cool.
Both essentially help to create the illusion that you’re touching a solid object.
These aren’t the only haptic toys in development, though, as some entrepreneurs like Teslasuit (my personal favourite) which are looking to actually create a full-body, futuristic experience. This project aims at developing a haptic rig involving a sleek, padded body suit that, coupled with a VR headset, will not only let the wearer experience both tactile sensations but thermal as well. Yes, that means you’ll be able to feel the bumps on a stone, the impact of a paintball gun, or chill of snow. This will make the sense of presence even more real.
The Teslasuit will be more free roaming virtual reality experiences, while another haptic company such as HaptX by contrast is more focused on a holodeck-esque experience which will include an exoskeleton rig for additional force feedback. That means, for the latter, virtual objects like rolling boulders can also – albeit safely – interact with your body. Both have left big impressions. Well to me ad least.
What is Phenomena?
As I write this, please have a look at this video of what we believe is the future of VR and what we have placed our bet as a startup company.