Join gaming leaders online at GamesBeat Summit Next this upcoming November 9-10. Learn more about what comes next.
Current-generation VR controllers are fairly limited in enabling users to “feel” virtual objects; bow strings vibrate with haptic shivers, while guns kick back as they fire bullets. Now researchers at Russia’s Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology are proposing a big step forward called TouchVR — a wearable accessory that applies direct force on the palm and vibrotactile feedback to the fingers, enabling users to feel the weight, texture, softness, and slippage of VR objects.
Each TouchVR wearable looks like the foundation of an Iron Man glove: a circular DeltaTouch 3D force generator centered on the palm, plus vibration motors wired with Velcro pads to the thumb and fingers around it. So equipped, the wearer can feel applied force and sliding motions in the palm, combined with vibrations that run from the palm to the fingertips to simulate object textures. There’s no need to hold another controller, as hands are tracked with a Leap Motion hand sensor and HTC Vive Pro VR system.
The researchers are using several Unity-based VR apps to demonstrate TouchVR’s capabilities, including a virtual spider moving on the wearer’s palm, a bouncing soccer ball, and a pulsing dragon’s egg. Other early demos let users operate a virtual robot with help from tactile feedback, or feel immersed in a Matrix-style 3D collection of streaming lines of code.
Simulating the sensation of touch without forcing users to grasp sword hilt-like controllers has been a goal of VR developers for years, and a variety of different approaches have been proposed. Ultrahaptics sends vibration sensations through the air to your fingers, while haptic armbands and other vibrating wearables have been deployed in at least limited tests. TouchVR’s solution is considerably smaller and simpler than Haptx gloves and Microsoft grasp and Torc controllers, though the focus here is seemingly less on the precision of finger input than the tactile sensations of interacting with objects.
Three top investment pros open up about what it takes to get your video game funded.
Going forward, the researchers have additional ideas for how to expand TouchVR’s functionality, including adding a Peltier element to generate thermal feedback and bringing the interface into medical systems for use in rehabilitation and simulations. It’s unclear when or whether the accessory will become available to consumers, but TouchVR will be shown off at Siggraph Asia in Brisbane, Australia from November 17-20.
GamesBeatGamesBeat's creed when covering the game industry is "where passion meets business." What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you -- not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. How will you do that? Membership includes access to:
- Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
- The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
- Networking opportunities
- Special members-only interviews, chats, and "open office" events with GamesBeat staff
- Chatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our Discord
- And maybe even a fun prize or two
- Introductions to like-minded parties