Yesterday, VR company HaptX announced that they have been awarded a $1.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to help fund the creation of a haptic feedback system that would produce sensation in the user’s arms and legs.
The project has been quietly worked on for years and is being co-developed with research partners from the University of Florida and Virginia Tech. The CEO and founder of the company, Jake Rubin, said in their press release that, “Since the founding of HaptX, we have envisioned creating a system for realistic full-body haptics. We’re thrilled to collaborate with NSF and Virginia Tech to build a platform that simulates realistic full-body interactions and helps more fully realize our company’s original vision.”
The project is called Forcebot and when complete it hopes to provide a full body haptic feedback system. They are combining a full body exoskeleton with microfluidic touch feedback to simulate a full VR experience. Their ultimate goal is to allow users to not only experience the feeling of touching objects but to fully recreate the feeling of moving across virtual terrain while experiencing realistic restraints on their movement. The initial applications for the Forcebot would be enterprise class training for the likes of professional sports, first responders, and the production industry.
The funding from the NSF comes from its National Robotics Initiative. Their expectations for the project are that the haptic system will improve interactions between humans and robots. Unfortunately, that does not mean the Robocop, ED-209 type of human robot interaction, the company says that wearers will be able to “intuitively manipulate objects from afar through a robotic avatar.”
The grant from the NSF will fund the project for the next four years and will hopefully result in the worlds first full body haptic feedback system for VR.