Virtual Reality

Hands Free Haptics & Gloveless Input

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Hands Free Haptics & Gloveless Input

Some amazing innovation is happening in the world of haptic feedback and VR input at the moment, and with the race for the ultimate immersive technology in full swing, this trend is no doubt set to continue. In one of our previous videos, we looked at a few of our favorite Virtual Reality gloves that had been making some impact, such as the Glove One, DexmoF2 and and the Omni Glove. As time continues, we are starting to see more idea’s come to life, one of the latest examples of this innovation is UnlimitedHand.

UnlimitedHand

UnlimitedHand is developed by H2L, a Tokyo based startup that focuses on electronic muscle stimulation (EMS). The futuristic wrap around device attaches itself to the users arm by clipping round on itself, and seems to be a much more lightweight approach to virtual reality input and feedback. Using their ‘Muscle Motion Sensor System’ to generate an input from the users motions, then feeding it back for the game or software to read. This will give users control over the game while keeping their hands completely uncovered and free. Sounds interesting right? One of the other interesting features of this device is the way it generates haptic feedback, whereas, most other haptic feedback designs use some form of mechanical function to generate resistance, the UnlimitedHand design focuses on the actual muscles themselves. It uses EMS to control the users movement in relation to the game, the developer of the glove stated in a reply on the UnlimitedHand Kickstarter page that, “Users will be able to have a Virtual handshake using the device.” This will be achieved by using kinesthetic feeling, or kinesthetic sensation. Defined as:

“kinesthetic sensation – sensory inputs which recognize the orientation of the different parts of the body in relation to other parts as well as the rates of movements of the body parts.”

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The use of this technique allows the device to actually affect the user’s fingers, moving them and restricting them in accordance to feedback from the game. Illustrated in this diagram found on the H2L site.

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This can be used to create effects such as “bodily encounters and occasions of being inflicted with damage within games.” Presumably accompanying the use of the vibration motor. The device is also wireless and uses bluetooth to transfer the information, and is capable of simulating up to 80 grams of weight, however, the minimum weight that it can simulate has not yet been specified.

At the time of this post UnlimitedHand had reached $67,423 of the $20,000 goal, with 23 days still on the clock. Here’s a look at their stretch goals.

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MYO

Another similar VR gadget can be found in the likes of Myo. Myo is another wireless device that uses Bluetooth LE to communicate data. Like the UnlimitedHand it has a multitude of use cases. It been demo’d with things like Call of Duty, Netflix, Minecraft and a vast array of other applications. The Myo uses “a combination of a gyroscope, an accelerometer and a magnetometer to detect your arm motion.” and has 8 muscle simulating modules that are used to detect your hand gestures. This includes a wide variation of hand gestures that range from something as small a pinch. Myo is already a pretty popular device with reports of Thalmic Labs achieving 50,000 pre-orders back in January 2015. There are also an abundances of other uses of these gadgets outside of gaming and VR. With examples of the Myo even being used as a MIDI trigger for Abelton Live.

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UltraHaptics

Ultrahaptics is another ‘futuristic’ design, that was dreamt up in Bristol University, UK. The project uses ultrasound to create objects in thin air that the user can reach out and touch. The Ultrahaptics technology seems to have a lot of potential. Back in June they were awarded a €1.49 million grant under the ‘commission’s Open Disruptive Innovation Scheme’, which was to be used for ‘further research and development of the project’, as stated by Tom Carter, CTO at Ultrahaptics, when they first announced the news of the grant.

This is another example of haptic technology that has many use cases outside of Virtual Reality, Ultrahaptics recently announced the news that they will be ‘supporting Jaguar Land Rover in the investigation of a mid-air touch system for its Predictive Infotainment Screen.’ with the aim of developing a safer way to interact with displays. The idea is to give the driver tactile feedback from the display, which will reduce the amount of time the driver has to spend not looking at the road.

One of the interesting things about this technology, and definitely something thats more relevant to VR, is its ability to simulate the texture of a variety of materials, some examples include brick, metal and wood, and, “Theoretically, any texture, so long as the texture can be mapped, even something as complex as flowing water.” The company behind this super sci-fi technology also speaks of plans to develop a design small enough to be implemented in to mobile phones, tablets and other hand held devices. Which would open up a world of new opportunities for software developers and game makers alike.

 

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If you fall in to any of these categories, then you may already be aware of the Evaluation program that is due to be launched by the UK based developers. The program will give devs access to everything they will need to start experimenting with the Ultrahaptic technology. However the program will only be available to a select few. You can find out more about it here.

Some may argue that these devices are pretty gimmicky, and they would probably have a point if the application of the devices was only for VR. But given the fact that each example has so many other use cases, and for the most part are not designed specifically for VR, VR just becomes a cool extra thing they can do, and they would definitely be fun devices to try out. Even beyond the context of VR. If you have a favorite input device, or feel there is something missing off this list, then feel free to drop us a message in the comment section below.

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