Our virtual future: Haptic suits and gloves
by Rasmus Wærling Riiser,
Social Media, Cadpeople
Did you see Ready Player One? In the fourth-highest grossing film of 2018 (so far), the characters escape into a virtual environment using hardware that echoes the VR gear we have today. The idea of VR having immense entertainment industry potential is evidently gaining traction in our mainstream culture.
The technology of Ready Player One, which takes place in a dystopian wasteland in 2045, is admittedly a few steps ahead of us – but exactly how far? In this blog post, we will take a look at haptic feedback technology.
We mostly think of virtual reality as having to do with our visual and auditive senses – shortly put, haptic feedback technology adds another dimension to the experience by inducing a sense of touch. The idea of being able to reach out and feel the surface texture of objects in a virtual world is not new (we saw a very early glove prototype about 20 years ago), but developing convincing hardware is far more challenging than you may think.
First things first: gloves.
The challenge is producing a sensation of touch within a glove that can simulate both the sensation of force resistance and texture of material. One way to solve this may be using air pressure – tech startup HaptX revealed a prototype glove last year which does just this. The surface of your hand is divided into “haptic pixels”, which are small, inflatable air pockets lined on the inside of the glove. Each “pixel” can then be activated, which inflates the air pocket and applies a force to this specific point on your hand. This way, if the “pixel” density is high enough, the glove can effectively simulate the sensation of touch.
If you want to learn more about HaptX, you can watch a short presentation video here.
We have yet to see the haptic technology that fulfils all of our VR dreams – outside of Ready Player One, at least. But we are expecting to see some incredibly exciting and innovative ways to develop haptic gloves in the next few years.
And after we have conquered the haptic glove, the next step is a full-body haptic suit. The experiences we could create with full-body haptic technology are beyond our wildest dreams. Only the future can show us what we can do, but this technology looks primed to change the VR landscape very soon!