We've had a summer of fantastic new haptic VR controller designs.
This week, Microsoft announced Haptic PIVOT, the latest in a long line of haptic VR controllers developed by the company's Research wing. The project's ambition is simple: to move us towards a VR experience in which "feelings will be on par with the awe-inspiring and realistic renderings being produced today by head-mounted displays."
In a statement released by the company, Microsoft Researched explained the thinking behind their latest device:
When you reach out an empty hand to pick an apple from a tree, you’re met with a variety of sensations—the firmness of the apple as you grip it, the resistance from the branch as you tug the apple free, the weight of the apple in your palm once you’ve plucked it, and the smooth, round surface under your fingertips.
"If Sir Isaac Newton were to have found the inspiration for his laws of motion and gravity from a virtual apple falling from a virtual tree," the statement continues, "he would have needed a controller like PIVOT."
PIVOT is quite simple. When a user approaches an interactable object in VR, the robotised haptic handle deploys toward the user's palm.
It is a wrist mounted haptic device which - by rendering the "momentum and drag of thrown and caught objects" - is able to convincingly emulate the sensation of interacting with real physical objects. This means PIVOT goes far further than allowing users to grasp objects, but also drop, throw and catch them, too.
The tech inside the device is so efficient that the handle can go from grasp to fully retracted (at approximately 190 degrees) in just 340 milliseconds. In other words, the time it takes to blink an eye.
We already knew that the convincing emulation of touch could be the final challenge before developers can offer fully immersive virtual reality experiences. Microsoft Research's PIVOT could be a big step towards that.
And if you think this is awesome, wait until you see what Facebook is cooking up - VR keyboard control simply by tracking your hands.