AxonVR has announced the closure of a $5.8 million seed investment, which is claimed to be the largest secured by a VR haptics company to date. The company intends to use the money to build out their HaptX platform which will be licensed directly to businesses such as theme parks and VR arcades.
With a few exceptions, haptics in VR usually amounts to using vibration as a proxy for a touch event. AxonVR, however, is trying to change this by actually applying localized pressure to the points of virtual contact. What this means is that when you place a virtual object on your hand, you would feel pressure at many points of contact instead of just a general vibration from a controller. To accomplish this, AxonVR has created a haptic skin that has hundreds of dots that are linked to pneumatic actuators. These actuators inflate the corresponding dots in the skin whenever the virtual object comes into contact with the player.
Road to VR went hands on with AxonVR’s haptic skin technology in a demo at this year’s IMMERSE Summit. The demo was similar to the one featured in AxonVR’s video with the exception of the thermal feedback system (which was not present at the time).
To try out their technology, I placed my hand, palm upwards, in a slot on the side of large metal box that contained pneumatic drive system needed to make their haptic skin function. Using a Vive controller in my other hand, I was able to place a variety of objects on my virtual hand and feel the corresponding pressure response from the HaptX skin.
The most impressive part of the demo was when I got to place a virtual deer on my hand. I could feel the individual points of contact as the deer moved its legs around my hand. While the experience raised the bar for what is capable in haptic feedback, AxonVR has an even grander vision for the future.
The company’s HaptX Skeleton is a full-body exoskeleton that uses force feedback to enable both locomotion and macro-haptic feedback to entire limbs. While they did not provide a date for when the HaptX Skeleton would be available, AxonVR president, Mark Kroese, says that they will have a product shipping sometime in 2017.
AxonVR was founded in 2012 and has offices in both San Luis Obispo, California and Seattle, Washington.