The future of haptic feedback is looking bright.
2018 is shaping up to be the year of haptic feedback. Earlier this month Microsoft showcased their latest ‘Haptic Link’ technology, creating a brand new solution for the realistic sensation of tension and pressure whilst immersed in VR. This was apparently just the tip of the iceberg however, as the multinational technology company has unveiled yet another haptic control prototype designed to bring feedback specifically to your hands.
Developed with the assistance of Stanford University intern Inrak Choy, the CLAW is a multifunctional haptic controller featuring a motorized arm that repositions the wearer’s index finger correlative to the palm, in turn simulating the feeling of force feedback.
So what exactly does this mean in terms of more immersive VR experiences? Basically the CLAW breaks down into four core functions for use within VR: grasping, touching, feeling and triggering.
The device has the ability to adapt haptic rendering by detecting the specific traits of the user’s grasp and analyzing it in terms of the context of the virtual scene in real-time. So imagine you’re grabbing a virtual object while wearing the CLAW. Once you have the virtual object in your hand and begin to grasp, the device replicates a feeling of resistance giving the sensation that an object actually exists between your index finger and thumb. The device incorporates a closed-loop force control system capable of simulating various stiffness renderings, allowing you to feel both solid and soft objects respectively.
This same closed-loop force control system is also responsible for the devices ability to simulate touch. By holding their thumbs away from the grasping gesture, users can actually touch and feel the shape of virtual objects by delivering resistance between the index finger and thumb. Once users touch a virtual object, resistance is generated against the finger preventing it from piercing it and killing immersion.
However, one of the most interesting features by far comes in the form of a voice coil attached under the tip of your index finger. This specially designed wire produces detailed vibrations relative to the texture of the virtual object, creating the realistic sensation of interacting with various surfaces such as a bumpy road or a smooth wall.
Finally, there’s ‘triggering.’ Once again, utilizing the closed-loop force control system, CLAW is capable of accurately imitating not only the feeling of holding the handle of a gun, but the recoil from firing one as well.
Thanks to the Vive Tracker mounted at the bottom, the CLAW incorporates all the functionality found in standard VR controllers, including thumb buttons and joysticks, 6DOF control, and an index finger trigger. All of which potentially makes this device a total replacement rather than an additional option for specific experiences.
No word yet on when or if we’ll be seeing more of this unique haptic tool, but one can only hope this is just another aspect of Microsoft’s haptic feedback master plan. Is it possible they have plans for combining the CLAW with its haptic links to form the ultimate immersive feedback tool? It definitely sounds like something big is on the way.