According to a recently-published patent, Microsoft is working on a device that will give you tactile feedback in both mixed and virtual realities.
The patent, published last week but originally filed back in June 2017, is for an ‘Electrostatic Slide Clutch’ that appears to fit around the user’s hand and arm. A series of electrodes stimulate the user’s hand with varying voltage, stopping them from fully closing a fist when they hold a virtual object, for example. The patent notes that this tech could be used in full virtual reality experiences and ‘mixed reality’, suggesting it could be compatible with HoloLens, too.
In its own images, Microsoft gives an example of holding a basketball, with the user’s hand stretched to simulate the curves of the ball. “In particular, haptic device may be configured to provide resistive contact sensation in response to detection of contact between the body of the user in a virtual display object projected into a field of view,” the patent reads.
Haptic feedback is one of the most important areas of VR R&D right now. Currently, input devices like Oculus Touch and the HTC Vive wands allow us to bring out hands into VR, but there’s nothing to stop us from putting our hands through surfaces, and no way to replicate the exact feeling of holding certain objects. With Microsoft’s tech, though, VR worlds can come a step closer to reality by giving players realistic feedback.
Still, as with most patents we report on, we have no way of knowing if Microsoft’s work will ever see the light of day. For now, we can just hope.