We’ve seen a lot of different approaches to solving VR haptics over the past few years. It’s safe to say that Wireality is unlike any other, though.
Revealed earlier this month from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the Future Interfaces Group, Wireality attaches spring-loaded cables to your fingers a little like a puppet. Connected to a shoulder-mounted device, the kit works with a given VR world to sense when your hand is about to come into contact with a virtual object and stop your fingers in the relevant position.
The aim is to give you the illusion of, say, resting your hand on a wall or wrapping your fingers around a railing. Check it out in the video below. It’s like VR haptics by way of puppetry.
This approach, the researchers say, has a lot of benefits. For starters, the system locks your fingers in place when touching a virtual object, but doesn’t require more power to keep it there. Researchers say it uses 0.024 mWh per actuation.
Perhaps most importantly, though, the entire system was created using less than $35 worth of components, whereas other VR haptics systems currently cost in the thousands.
But, fairly obviously, there’s a lot of hurdles for Wireality to overcome. A lot of what makes consumer VR haptics tough is making it simple and accessible for users. Hooking up an array of cables to your digits and mounting a device to your shoulder before putting on a headset is anything but convenient. It’s also bound to limit how freely you can move your hands in VR, which isn’t something we’d be quick to trade-off.
Plus the system can only apply the illusion of touching a surface to a few parts of the hand; if you were to press your hand flat against a wall, say, you wouldn’t actually feel it on most of your palm with the current setup.
But it’s certainly an interesting avenue for future research.