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07 July 2016

Oculus Is Developing a New Way to Feel Things in Virtual Reality

Courtesy of Oculus
Oculus Is Developing a New Way to Feel Things in Virtual Reality
by David Grossman, popularmechanics.com, 
6 July 2016

Reach out and touch cyberspace.

As virtual reality creeps on into inevitability, both in terms of video games and hanging out in virtual workspaces, the question remains: Will you ever be able to feel anything? Oculus and its parent company, Facebook, are working on a potential add-on to the virtual experience designed specifically for that purpose.

HapticWave, as Oculus and Facebook are calling it, is a circular metal plate that hangs out on top of a a ring of electromagnetic actuators. You put your hand on the plate, then these actuators send vibrations up through the plate into your hand. The actuators create bending waves from exact directions, and accelerometers detect the hand's movement and position which is then sent back to the actuators so they can aim the next round of vibrations. In a demo with a bouncing ball, users were able to feel—or at least perceive—the ball's vibrations against the virtual floor as they watched it coming towards them in an Oculus.

With this tech, your hand would stand in for your entire body, says Ravish Mehra, a research scientist at Oculus. If someone in a video game is creeping up behind you, you might feel vibrations at the base of your palm. If you're in an educational experience exploring the world of dinosaurs, your entire hand might vibrate with each step. "Our hope around this project was being able to generate this extrasensory input so users can be more perceptive and more believable of virtual objects," Mehra says.

There's no word on how, or if, HapticWave's future is intertwined with the Oculus Rift. The developers might want to consider a name change, though: There's already a device called HapticWave out there, designed to help visually impaired audio engineers.

Source: MIT Technology Review


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