Enterprise First

Image courtesy HaptX

There’s other VR haptic solutions out there that are interesting in their own right, but as far as the level of detail, I haven’t seen anything else come close. Granted, the HaptX glove demo was clearly built for what it does best; it was focused more on subtle, small-scale effectives, and didn’t include any of the common VR game mechanics like gripping and shooting a gun, drawing a bow, throwing a grenade, or swinging a sword.

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I’ll be interested to know how those sorts of actions feel through the HaptX glove, but the company has a fair excuse for not yet touting that sort of functionality; the product is headed first toward the enterprise sector (where shooting pistols and swinging broad swords isn’t exactly the main focus). Rubin says that HaptX’s goal is to offer a VR glove product which works as a generalized haptic display, and can be used to replace expensive, purpose-built props to make training and simulation uses of VR cheaper. He also notes the potential for design and manufacturing, architecture, engineering, construction and more as places where the glove could be useful.

Image courtesy HaptX

Rubin says that, following this feature prototype, the HaptX team is busy building the first productized version—an evaluation kit, with 20 companies already on board to receive the kits in 2018. And though it’s targeting enterprise first, the company is also pursuing out-of-home entertainment usage for the HaptX glove, and, in the longer term, the consumer market. That’s not to say it’ll necessarily be an easy challenge though.

A Fitting Challenge

HaptX has clearly demonstrated the capability of their underlying haptic technology. But perhaps an even bigger challenge will be figuring out how to package the tech into something that’s ergonomically agreeable. The monster prototype that I saw is simply too big, bulky, and too slow to put on to be useful (not to mention the large pieces of additional equipment needed to power it). It also didn’t fit my hand particularly well; I found myself regularly tucking my fingers back into the finger tip caps in order to maintain the best haptic feeling. By the end of the demo, I could feel the circulation to my hand was significantly reduced.

Photo by Road to VR

Rubin tells me that the team is confident they can tackle these challenges. For one, the current prototype is a one-size-fits-all ordeal, and since human hands can vary quite drastically in size, this is far from ideal. A range of sizes will allow a more snug fit for more people. And when it comes to extra equipment (like the control box and the air compressor) needed to power the glove, Rubin says that in addition to using much smaller regulators to reduce the size of the control box, the company expects to be able to build the compressor directly into the control box, thereby simplifying the additional equipment.

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The company’s ultimate vision, Rubin says, is for HaptX to build its haptic tech into a full body suit for total immersion. The company is purportedly already experimenting with larger wearable arrangements of its micro-pneumatic material which could one day be sewn into vests, shoes, and more to bring an even greater amount of your body into VR.

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  • Firestorm185

    OMIGOSH, THEY MADE BUBBLE HAPTICS. VituNet is only a matter of time away now.
    James Dashner may be right. XD

  • Miqa

    This looks promising already. The micro pneumatics already seem to approach a reasonable size and are flexible (?). It has potential to include temperature with warming/cooling of the air. Texture might be more difficult, but probably not impossible.

    The requirement of compressed air is probably the biggest concern for this design as unless they can go really low in pressure, big, loud and energy consuming compressors are required.

  • 144Hz

    This will be great for porn games

    • ale bro

      i need macro-pneumatics for porn, not sure micro would fit me

  • Ian Shook

    Ben, did the force feedback allow for softer items (like a tomato) or was it more of a ‘free moving’ and ‘stopped’ type of restriction?

    • benz145

      Good question. It allowed for some squishiness too, but I don’t believe it’s able to actively push back against your fingers, so once it picks the stopping point it can’t move your fingers backwards. But at least that means no one has to worry about a malfunction breaking their fingers : P

      • David Bunting

        …aaaand all i can picture in my head is the HAMER Industries attempt to copy the iron man suit in iron man 2… you know… the one that spun the torso 180 degrees… with a pilot inside. EESH

  • Sin Dong

    And i will be out in 2025 for $2,000.00

    • Edward Morgan

      Ah, but I am out now, and cost significantly less.

      • T

        $2,000 might be a very low estimate for all that hardware…..

  • Andreas Zetterström

    I wonder why they can’t just use say peltier elements to heat and cold a closed loop gas system for each bubble… that way you would not need the compressor and the whole control system could potentially fit in the glove alone.

  • David Bunting

    if they were able to heat and cool the air (or if they change mediums, liquid) inside the micro-pneumatics not only could they allow the wearer to feel hot and cold, but also simulate pain be using the “Thermal-Grill” illusion by heating and cooling the micro-pneumatic cells in an alternating pattern. Im not saying simulating pain should be a goal for VR but it adds a sense of immersion. With a fine enough control of the alternating pattern they may be able to simulate other sensations as well. It still isnt really understood how the “thermal Grill” illusion works but having a fine grid that can be heated, cooled, and pressure applied to it might help researchers better understand it.

  • Whatever happened to artificial muscle tech? Air bladders aren’t going to cut it. Not only are they bulky, but you will need an air compressor on hand at all times to use them.

  • Seems awesome! I agree that they have to reduce the form factor, though. And it would be interesting to know the price… seems an expensive piece of tech to me (at least $2000)

  • Aaron Benjamin

    too bad they fucking bailed on the exosuit. Changed their named just to avoid the heat about it except ughhh vr is a small community. We all know what you did guys….

  • David Kaplowitz

    Hrm … if they add the appropriate micropressure, and forced feedback further up the arm, you could probably simulate weight, because you would have to strain those muscles to move/lift an object of weight. But it would have to be a variable pressure not just an on/off, dealing with the amount of weight, and the ability to overcome it.