The HTC Vive wands and Oculus Touch controllers do an amazing job of bringing our hands into VR, but they share many issues, including how to handle two-handed objects. However, a new project from Microsoft Research is addressing this issue with Haptic Links.
Picking up objects in VR that would likely require two hands in the real world can feel strange. Using a rifle, for example, often asks the player to imitate holding the trigger of the gun with one hand and the barrel with the other, which doesn’t feel very immersive. Haptic Links, however, connects your two controllers with convincing haptic feedback when you’re holding a two-handed object while allowing for the full usual range of motions when your hands are free or holding smaller items.
As explained the video above, Haptic Links uses electro-mechanically actuated physical connections that will simulate variable stiffness when holding something like a shotgun. Use dual-wielding pistols and you’ll play VR shooters as normal but, upon picking up a larger weapon, Haptic Link aligns your controllers and becomes rigid, allowing you to realistically aim and fire without feeling like you’re playing with thin air.
But it’s not just for rifles; Haptic Links’ variable stiffness also allows for accurate feedback when drawing an arrow on a bow, for example, while another variation of the device is even able to hold the form of a steering wheel for a car. You can also simulate the size of objects when grabbing them from either side by preventing the user from moving their hands closer together.
Of course, this is all prototype work and not anything like a final product, this is a pretty compelling and versatile way of further maintaining immersion inside VR. Of course, peripheral looks expensive and complicated, but with further optimization, we’d be very intrigued to see this as a consumer product.