Virtual Textures with Oculus

The Oculus Rift, released March 28, 2016
The Oculus Rift, released March 28, 2016

Earlier this year, Oculus released the final consumer version of the Oculus Rift, after much anticipation following their historic Kickstarter campaign and subsequent acquisition by Facebook. However, with Oculus currently losing the VR war to the more expensive HTC Vive, Oculus now seems to be planning to beat other players in the VR space with advanced haptics. Researchers at Oculus are currently working on a project called HapticWave, which uses a circular metal plate placed on top  of a ring of electromagnetic actuators to communicate precise haptic feedback to your hand, when placed on the plate.

HapticWave, a project from Oculus and Facebook
HapticWave, a project from Oculus and Facebook

While it is uncertain if HapticWave will be integrated into future Oculus products, what is certain is that detailed haptic feedback will be essential for truly immersive virtual and augmented reality experiences. Oculus has already began to make the Rift experience more immersive with their long-awaited Touch controllers, which will allow users to manipulate virtual objects with precise constellation tracking of their movement in the real world. The Touch controllers will also offer some haptic feedback as users interact with objects in different virtual environments.

As Oculus looks to add immersive haptic technology, other companies are creating dedicated haptic interfaces that are built to work synchronously with VR headsets such as the Rift. Tesla Studios, for example, is building a haptic-rich virtual reality suit, named the Teslasuit, which readily can connect with the Oculus Rift to create a virtual world that you can feel and interact in using full-body motion tracking.

Teslasuit, a full body haptic suit
Teslasuit, a full body haptic suit

While less immersive than a full haptic body suit, Moment allows precise haptic feedback that can be used by game developers to create more immersive virtual reality experiences and make existing non-VR games more immersive as well. By releasing Moment with an open SDK, we hope to create a resource for developers to integrate rich haptic textures into the way we interact with technology on a day-to-day basis.

Author: Jake Rockland

Jake is currently a junior pursuing a B.S.E. in Computer Engineering at the University of Arizona. A hacker at heart, Jake has experience with firmware development, full stack web development, and iOS development.

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