Everything you have to know about haptic technology

Kinetic VR experience

Virtual and mixed reality technology has mastered fooling our brains into believing virtual environments and the objects inside them are really right in front of us.

Motion tracking technology collaborating with controllers mimics movements of players’ hands, and projects them into virtual hands, allowing us to push and pull virtual objects. But if you ever tried VR, you know that if you did reach out to touch a virtual object all you would feel is thin air.

When we think about the ways we sense the world around us and want to  replicate those experiences in VR, it’s clear that our tactile senses are a crucial component to feel fully immersed. This is why Haptics technology is being developed for VR.

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What is haptic technology

Haptic technology aims to simulate the sensation of touch with various mechanisms. One of them is using touch as a feedback system to communicate information to and from the user.

As visually-oriented species, we usually don’t stop to think how incredible our sense of touch really is. With our hands we can determine hardness, geometry, temperature, texture and weight only by handling something.

Even though you might not know it, there is a good chance you are already using haptic technology in your daily life. Many smartphones with touch screens use vibration as a form of feedback. Unlike keypad, touchscreens are just flat plates of glass, so the vibration function of the phone is used to simulate the tactile feel of buttons. What is more some Android smartphones detect when you pick them up and vibrate if there are any unread notifications for you. That is exactly what haptic technology is. How does it translate to virtual reality?

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How do haptics work

Different technologies are used to give sensations that feel like solid objects and resistance.  Devices apply force, pressure or resistance by using electric actuators, pneumatics and hydraulics.

For example, gamepads use electric motors to force feedback vibrations. What is more interesting, some data gloves both track hand motion and use air bladders to harden and restrict your grip, so you can feel an object in virtual reality.

Recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed a new prototype for VR gloves, and companies like Manus VR and Dexmo exoskeleton glove are working on delivering gloves that would work with available VR headsets.

A high-end technology are haptic suits. “Suit up to feel every explosion, gunshot, and sword fight in VR,” NullSpace writes on its VR Suit’s Kickstarter page. NullSpace suit relies on tracking systems from systems like the Vive and Oculus Rift to figure out where your limbs and torso are in relation to the headset.

Haptics is a fast evolving area.  With virtual reality technologies maturing the demand for consumer-grade haptics will also intensify. So to stay up-to-date with virtual world, follow us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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