This might be the strangest haptic feedback device we’ve seen yet.
Researchers based out of Taiwan’s National Taiwan University and National Chengchi University are working on a one-of-a-kind controller that uses VR technology and faux fur to simulate the sensation of snuggling a digital feline, resulting in what could easily be considered the strangest haptic device currently in development.
Presented earlier this week during the 2021 Computer-Human Interaction conference, HairTouch, as it’s referred to by the team, features a unique, albeit complex design. By controlling the length and direction of a small patch of fake fur mounted below the users index finger, the device is able to replicate the feeling of petting a small furry animal in VR. As the user strokes the back, head, and stomach of the virtual feline, the controller alters the position and length of the “fur” (composed of standard cosmetic brushes) in relation to their real-world movements using a Vive Tracker mounted to the back of the device.
In addition to fur, the HairTouch device can also be used to simulate various other textures in VR. In the video provided we see the user sampling a variety of pillow covers, each featuring their own unique stiffness, roughness, and surface height differences. Of course, this same system could, theoretically, be used for a variety of other use-cases, such as simulating physical human contact; not such a crazy idea in a post-COVID world.
That being said, HairTouch is a prototype device still in its early stages of development, therefore I wouldn’t expect a commercial release anytime soon, if at all. Once the technology has matured, however, I could see a similar—more streamlined device—be used for a variety of purposes.
Imagine slipping on a VR headset to “visit” a remote petting zoo. Or enrolling in a virtual cosmetology school and learning how to cut hair from the comfort of your home. Okay, these are some pretty weak examples, but you get my point.
Feature Image Credit: Ray Tsai via YouTube