Microsoft Research is Making VR Way More Tangible
The Microsoft Research team is working on new controllers that allow players to grasp soft objects, use a cane for the blind or even play the trombone in VR.
Touching the Virtual with New Controls from Microsoft
“Ask yourself how you really want to interact with virtual objects?” Asks Mike Sinclair, the principal researcher at Microsoft Research. “The simple answer is that we want to handle them as if they are real, just reach out a hand to grasp them, pick them up, feel what they’re made of, and do all that in a natural way that requires no learning.”
Microsoft Research team is working on some new controllers for VR and AR experiences. The controllers are very experimental right now, but they look very promising with a lot of potential for making Augmented and Virtual Reality more exciting and useful.
Probably the most versatile of the controllers being tested is the “The Claw.” A gun-like device that you can squeeze and lets you pick up and handle virtual objects with haptic feedback so you can feel their texture and softness. The haptic controller can even detect the differences between the situational context of the scene and the player’s grips. So depending on how you hold the controller, The Claw will deliver touch sensations in some sort of resistance preventing you from penetrating VR objects, or subtle vibrations that simulate textures.
The Haptic Links, the Canetroller, and the Haptic Revolver
There is also a two-handed controller called ‘Haptic Links’ that is able to simulate experiences you do with two hands. Anything from operating a hammer drill or carrying boxes to playing maracas or a trombone. The Haptic Links dynamically alters the forces it perceives between
One of the controllers being tested is referred to as the “Canetroller” because it simulates a cane like the ones blind people use. You can sweep it around in a virtual world and it automatically stops when it hits an object thanks to a programmable break. The canetroller vibrates while you sweep it across the ground just like a real cane would. These sensations are enhanced by auditory feedback.
Last but not least is the Haptic Wheel, also known as the Haptic Revolver, which renders the tactile experience of friction and material properties.