This prototype haptic VR controller from Microsoft Research suggests where Valve’s Index controllers could go next.
Developed at KAIST University, TORC is a haptic controller offering ‘High-Dexterity Finger Interaction’. In its prototype stage, it uses a Vive Tracker for movement. The controller has a trackpad for your thumb protruding from one side. The user places their index and middle fingers on the back on this pad.
A New Type Of Haptic VR Controller
In VR, this simulates grabbing an object with those two fingers and your thumb. Sliding your thumb over the trackpad rotates the object in question. It doesn’t look entirely natural, but it is an interesting solution for object manipulation in VR.
Crucially, TORC uses a pressure sensor to detect when the user is squeezing an object. For elastic objects, this could simulate squeezing. Whereas Valve’s Index controllers can only detect when your fingers are touching the controller and when they aren’t, TORC could ensure users are physically gripping virtual objects. The thumbpad, meanwhile, is able to simulate textures when moving it.
This being a prototype, though, TORC doesn’t seem to have other classic VR features like triggers and buttons. There’s no thumbstick for locomotion, for example. We’d also like to see a version of the controller that utilizes all of the user’s fingers.
TORC certainly doesn’t have all the answers for haptic feedback in VR, then. But it does look like an interesting middle ground between something like the Index controllers and more robust haptic systems like HaptX. The latter systems are still complex, expensive and likely someways off from consumer viability. TORC, meanwhile, certainly looks like it would at least fit alongside a modern VR controller. Whether or not anything will come of it remains to be seen.