Convincing the human eye to believe virtual reality objects are real has been achieved through high-end headsets and immersive software experiences, but what about the other senses? Will VR ever be able to complete the illusion of reality through additional sensory input like touch?
A new experiment involving haptic feedback may have just paved the way for VR users to now “feel” the intangible objects they interact with.
A research team at the Hasso Plattner Institut in Germany created a wearable system that uses an array of electronic muscle stimulators to trick a user into thinking that a wall in VR is providing real resistance. The tiny electrode pads, which are controlled via USB linked to a backpack module and connected to a VR simulation, trigger corresponding muscle groups to provide convincing resistance when the user interacts with objects in VR.
And the muscle-based sensory feedback doesn’t end at walls — the researchers also applied the effect to the act of a picking up VR objects, essentially giving a virtual cube the illusion of weight.
Of course, without testing the system ourselves, we only have the team’s demonstration video (above) to offer proof of the concept.
Nevertheless, if the video is an accurate reflection of the real effects of this VR experiment, this new technology could mean we’re much closer to harnessing the power of VR for everything from more realistic training simulations (military, sports, physical therapy) to something as simple as giving your loved one a real hug in VR, even when you’re miles apart.
Now all we need is a similarly convincing solution for our senses of taste and smell, and the growing geek migration from reality to VR will become truly irresistible.