VirtualGrasp Aims to Finally Deliver Realistic Hand Interactions in VR

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Swedish robotics specialists are working on a system to allow game developers to deliver realistic, realtime and dynamic interaction animations, so that your VR hands can finally grasp in-game objects convincingly.

By the end of this year, every major virtual reality platform will have its own motion control solution, from the Vive’s SteamVR devices to Oculus’ Touch, but whilst these controller give developers the ability to deliver near 1:1 mapped input in VR, the virtual results of those actions, particularly with our hands, can look, well, pretty ‘shonky’. Objects we pick up often just stick incongruously to the in-game controller models and, should the developer have included hand models, snap into a predefined multi-purpose positions which is more often than not pretty unconvincing.

Hand presence isn’t just about accuracy of their position in space then, but also about representing the myriad subtleties our endlessly adaptable digits are capable of. For example, observe yourself picking up a tumbler glass, your fingers will wrap the cylinder securely, picking a wine glass though and you may clasp more daintily by the stem. Not only that, if your grip will change depending where on that object you choose to hold it. The sorts of subtleties we take for granted in every day life are generally deemed expendable in games and ‘brute forcing’ a real solution – say a canned animation for every world object – is clearly out of the question.

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Now, Swedish company Gleechi claim to be well on their way to resolving these issues. The company claims that the animation systems they’re building are based on 8 years of robotic research conducted by the dedicated research group at KTH, Sweden’s leading technical university.

Gleechi’s says that its VirtualGrasp product resolves the need for labour intensive manual animations for the hands by using a “predictive and adaptive algorithm” which analyses the ‘physical’ properties of a virtual object, deciphering the most appropriate and realistic grip formation for the in-game hand model and snapping to that position. The software is still in an early state, but as you can see in the video embedded at the top of the page, it really does seem to work and seeing it in action you realise just how poor most in-game interactions look.

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Clearly VirtualGrasp is a technology with general purpose benefits for many games, but in VR that extra piece of the realism puzzle, one that further ties your physical self to your virtual self, may have more significant implication for immersion and presence.

If you’d like to know more about VirtualGrasp, head over to the company’s website here.

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