Hands-on: StrikerVR’s Latest Prototype Haptic Gun Packs More Than Just Virtual Bullets

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At GDC 2017 this week we’ve gone hands-on with the latest prototype of StrikerVR’s ‘Arena Infinity’ haptic VR gun. Built (for now) for the out-of-home sector, the peripheral’s powerful haptics adapt from guns to chainsaws to grenade launchers and more.

Update (3/3/17, 1:14PM PT): The video interview above has an audio issue on some platforms; those listening on mobile devices may not be able to hear the audio or hear a corrupted version. However, desktop playback or mobile with headphones plugged in should work fine. New video uploaded, issue should now be resolved. If you’re still having issues, let us know in the comments below.

In virtual reality you can make the tracked object you’re holding look like anything. So a one-size-fits-all haptic kick isn’t going to cut it when immersion is the goal. StrikerVR knows this, and has created their Arena Infinity haptic gun to be able to output an impressive range of haptic effects which feel significantly different depending upon what virtual weapon you’re firing.

strikervr arena infinity (5)I got to try the latest prototype, which is now fully self contained, at GDC 2017 this week and was impressed with the extremely solid feel of the Arena Infinity and the powerful and satisfying kick it provides. In the demo I wore a VR backpack, an Oculus Rift, and wielded the Arena Infinity, all tracked by the new active-marker ‘OptiTrack Active’ system.

strikervr arena infinity (7)In the single-fire mode, you get a very satisfying kick with every pull; you can feel the gun move your shoulder, and even see it when other people are using the peripheral. Because of the type of haptics StrikerVR has implemented, the response time is also very tight relative to the in-game visuals and sound effects, and continues to be responsive as fast as I was able to pull the trigger. After pulling the trigger enough times to deplete the virtual clip, successive pulls give only a tiny nudge to indicate that you’re out of ammo. The bottom of the gun has a ‘smack button’, that somewhat recreates the motion of smacking a clip to ensure it’s been securely inserted into the magazine well. That initiates a reload and allows you to continue firing away.

A button on the side of the gun (in this case) was used to toggle between different virtual weapon modes with different haptic effects. One mode was full-auto which gave a satisfying repeating kick as I held down the trigger (this was especially fun for dual wielding the guns, Rambo style). The next mode was a grenade launcher which gave the feeling of a single ‘thump’ followed by a rumble indicating when the weapon was reloaded. And then there was the chainsaw mode, which put revving chains on the end of the gun model in the game (along with sound effects). In this mode, the gun is constantly making a low rumble which picks up speed as you hold the trigger down. When you let the trigger go, the chains slow down after losing their momentum and return to the idle rumble.

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The effect, especially paired with the in-game chainsaw visual and sound effects, made me momentarily fearful of putting my hand on the end of the gun where the virtual chainsaw was.

StrikerVR has also shown other haptic effects that weren’t present in this demo, and developers could make their own effects that specifically fit their in-game weapons.

strikervr arena infinity (2)While the Arena Infinity is made for the out-of-home market and presently tracked by a high-end commercial tracking system, StrikerVR co-founder Martin Holly says that the company wants to prove the device in the commercial market before commoditizing it into a consumer package. When it comes to tracking, Holly says that future versions of the gun will feature a scope rail which will make an easy attachment point for something like the Vive Tracker to enable SteamVR Tracking. Holly also says the company is in contact with Oculus regarding the possibility of using Oculus’ Constellation tracking system.

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  • VRgameDevGirl

    This sounds like allot of fun. I can’t wait for something similar using the vive tracker. But, how do you get 3rd party objects to vibrate along with what is happening in game? They would have to be connected to the PC, right?

    • NooYawker

      More cables and USB plugs!!!

    • Scott C

      One hopes that if they’re in talks with the vendors, they’d be able to integrate to the bluetooth PANs that the first party controllers do.

      Not that I’m really keen on the specialty controller market for VR. The power of hand presence is strong enough that I feel like it should be the focus of most VR titles; 3rd party specialty peripherals are just going to fragment markets, be clumsy to integrate with first-party hand presence motion control (Vive wantds, Touch controllers, etc.) in games, and so on. I’ll take manipulating things naturally with my hands and fudging things like gun recoil over slapping a bunch of controller buttons on my gun so I can “interact” with things by pressing buttons on my “gun.”

  • a247slacker

    with the Vive tracker the gun plugs into the vive tracker USB it then sends and receives the signal from your computer wireless like the controller dose now.

  • NooYawker

    While I welcome these device to bring up the immersion I see so many issues. If there’s multiple guns in the game they’ll all feel the same. Switching to handgun. Going back to controllers to use your hands to grab things. Is everything going to be hanging off your neck and hands. I watched this video where a guy used a stick to keep his hands straight which seemed to work just as well. And like vrgamegirl brought up this will probably need to be plugged in, so more cables.
    Man I’m such a downer.

    • Bryan Ischo

      All of the issues you pointed out probably are all worth consideration. Maybe when we have proper hand tracking these things will be better because you’ll be able to naturally put the gun down and immediately interact with whatever you put the gun down for instead of having to “switch” to a motion control.

      Of course, none of us have actually tried it so I’m sure we’re all very reasonably waiting to try before we form any solid conclusions.

      • NooYawker

        I’m talking a lot of smack but I already know I’m going to buy one if it gets released. In for a penny in for a pound. I have a really bad problem with impulse buying of peripherals.

        • Full Name

          The version they are showing off is $15000 and meant for arcades. You’ll have to wait a while for a consumer version.

  • Sam Illingworth

    I’m not even into guns and I want one!

  • Looks like it could really use a pump action shotgun/grenade launcher (sliding handle), as well.

    • Strawb77

      i was just thinking that myself

  • Cool! This is great for arcades

  • Mermado 1936

    shitty headset they are using…

    • yag

      Lol the usual Vive fanboy comment.

      • StarLightPL

        I beg to differ. He’s probably a cardboard warrior.

  • Not to pick on the gun, it does (and has for over 2 years now) all sound cool. But he mentioned adding a trackpad…. WHY??? Can we just all come together, consumers and industry, and all admit that trackpads suck? They are necessary on laptops, not because we like them, but because we don’t really have any choice in the matter. Joysticks and thumbsticks are great. They are tactile and reliable. You can always expect them to work, and feel them working. *FEEL* is very important when you’re vision is covered up with goggles. Trackpads SUCK for feel. They are a flat nothing. Please don’t mare yet another product with awful trackpads. I *HATE* the trackpad on the VIVE, with just blind passion, I hate it so much. I really envy the Oculus Touch’s joystick, both as a gameplayer and game developer. Trackpads have GOT to go, the same way “quick-time” events had to go from games several years ago. It’s just industry stupidity that nobody has grown the balls to dispense with yet. Give me a joystick! Perish Trackpad, back to the gaming hell from whence you came!

    • Full Name

      Trackpads are more versatile. I think it is deal to have both though.

      • It really doesn’t. What versatility does a trackpad add? It’s an X-Y coordinate device. It’s only added value over a joystick is 2 or 3 finger gestures. Needless to say, if you put it under a single digit, like the thumb, that’s pointless. You only have one thumb, you can’t pinch and zoom with one thumb.

        Joystick/Thumbsticks are far more useful because they not only have tactile feedback (you can FEEL them), but they also allow you to push past the edges. When you swipe with a trackpad, you will reach the edge eventually. The joystick has no edge, you can just push to the side and keep pushing all day long. It’s like a trackpad that never stops tracking.

        And when you let go of a joystick, it re-centers itself. Next time you touch it, you’ll know it starts at Zero. You could be touching anywhere on the trackpad. Your finger might start on the edge for all you know. You can’t swipe far when you’re already at the edge.

        Joysticks are DEPENDABLE input. Unless there is a touchscreen under your finger and you’re looking directly at it, it’s just an abstract surface, meaningless in itself. A joystick is a physical object you push, something the brain can wrap itself around, even if you’re blind to the world (like in VR).

        • Full Name

          It really is. The trackpad can have any number of areas designated for pressing, basically buttons. Look t the vive implementation. Some games will use it for 4 different buttons at once, and the virtual controller can easily reflect that with labels etc. Trackpad movement can also be done similarly to analog stick. Rest your finger toward the top and you move forward until you let go, or move the finger somewhere else. Thinking of trackpads limited to how you control a mouse cursor on pc is really just using a small portion of the potential..

          • The JOYSTICK could be used as 4 buttons at once. You aren’t pointing out anything here a joystick couldn’t do, and with the added benefit that the joystick has tactile feedback.

            In fact, you really make my point for me with the resting finger issue. Just TOUCHING any point of the trackpad is considered activation. You can gently touch a joystick without any effect, letting you know it’s under your finger and ready to go without activating anything. The touchpad, on the other hand, is going to be activated the second it’s touched for any reason.

            I can NOT be alone here in having issues with the trackpad being activate when I didn’t intend it to me. Are you seriously going to sit here and tell me you’ve NEVER had any issues with the trackpad doing things you didn’t intend it to do? If so, I’m going to have to call you a liar. We’ve all experienced it. It’s a touch sensitive bomb under your finger, too easy to activate and too hard to control. It SUCKS.

          • Full Name

            You really don’t have a clue about this it seems, other than pre-conceived notions you picked up after playing console game. We have a team researching input methods and the freckled has a host of valid uses, provided apps or games are programmed to take advantage of it. Joysticks are good as well, certainly more tactile response if all you think about is using it for movement. It is however not as flexible in terms of the variety of operations that can be effectively performed as a freckled. If your argument boils down to that trackpads suck, you have really already lost..

          • Hey man, I’ve done all I can. You clearly aren’t listening or reading anything I’ve wrote, and that’s your loss. I spelled out every reason, as clearly as any human being could, and you just refuse to hear it. I got the same sort of entrenched thoughts when I told people, 2 days after it’s launch, that the Wii was gimmicky and wouldn’t last. I got the same friction when I told people back in 2003 that PDA-Phones would someday rule our lives someday, and that touchscreen gaming had HUGE potential. Now I get the same pushback from you over this imagined advantage in some unspecified action that you think trackpads are superior in. They aren’t. It’s just another gimmick. In 5 years time, it won’t even be a question. This trackpad push on game controllers will be remembered as a dumb idea. Future gamers will hold up the PS4 Dualshock and PS Vita touchpad and say to each other, “wtf were they thinking??”. Heck, people are saying that RIGHT NOW. If you knew more about the market, you’d KNOW THAT. But you aren’t hearing it, and I’m done talking to you about it. You’ve eaten up too much of my time already. I’m done reading your responses. Type whatever you like. I can’t imagine anyone is reading it at this point.

            Btw, “freckled” relates to freckles, which are dot-like skin discolorations. I’m guessing that English isn’t your first language. I can’t even guess what word you meant to use.

          • Full Name

            Sorry, but you are the one that is entrenched in thoughts based on your own limited experiences. It seems you equate trackpads with what you see on laptops. Give the HTC Vive a try, they have a pretty decent implementation of how it can be done. It is a far cry from you seem to think Trackpads should be. Talking to you is a bit like talking to someone who says that electric cars suck because they tried a smart car 5 years ago. They fail to see the potential, and won’t even try a Tesla.

            You also seem to think you know what the market want, but your wii example is the perfect example of how far off you are. The Wii has sold over 100 million units…