Now, direct sensors and motion tracking technology allow users to interact with virtual objects as though they were real. Despite the ability to move an object, VR developers have yet to incorporate lifelike tactile sensations. Disney Research is developing a commercial VR application that incorporates haptic feedback in response to user actions, biofeedback, and environmental occurrences.
Haptic, from the Greek haptesthai, means “to touch”, and is often used as a medical synonym for “tactile”. As VR and AR technologies become better at tricking our brains into thinking digital objects exist in our physical world, the term has found yet another application.
Haptic technology uses forces, vibrations, or motions to simulate the sense of touch for the user. Ali Israr, Senior Research Engineer at Disney Research, is leading the company’s development of VR haptic technology.
Regarding the current state of VR, Israr notes that “virtual reality has seen a renaissance in recent years as advancements in computer graphics, computing platforms and the seamless flow of information between hardware and software have come together in a powerful way. Our team is working to make VR haptic sensations just as rich as the 360-degree visual media now available.”
“The new device engages the entire body whereas previous VR haptic feedback typically only stimulated the controller and headset.”
VR360: the Latest and Greatest in VR Haptic Technology
Disney Research has created an application that allows users to experience haptic feedback from the VR environment. The haptic plugin, via a unique chair, provides full body sensations and a library of customizable effects such as rain falling.
Tying the plugin and the chair together, Disney Research announced the VR360 Player during the first week of November 2016 at the ACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology.
The player has an authoring and haptic plugin that connects to a VR game engine. With the authoring plugin, users have the freedom to select the haptic feedback they desire from the events triggered in the VR environment.
VR360HD, the haptic definition app developed by Disney Research was created and tested using a consumer headset and their proprietary haptic chair. The chair’s back is equipped with a grid of six vibrotactile actuators while the seat and rear are equipped with two subwoofers. Localized movement is created by the vibrotactile grid while the subwoofers stimulate the two halves of the body to simulate motion.
The new device engages the entire body whereas previous VR haptic feedback typically only stimulated the controller and headset.
With the VR360 Player, Disney Research not only continues the company’s legacy of being at the forefront of entertainment and interactive storytelling, but also helps make VR experiences and technology more comprehensive.