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.
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.
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.
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.
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.