There’s no doubt about it; weilding a real controller that matches the weight and feel of a virtual object is far more immersive than having a disconnect between the two. The problem, of course, is that if a controller is made to fit too specific a role, it’s less useful for interacting with a wide range of virtual objects. A novel prototype based on an HTC Vive controller attempts to solve this problem by allowing the controller to redistribute its weight on the fly.
Created by Manuel Rosado, a Madrid-based VR developer, the so called Nyoibo prototype controller uses a series of interconnected servos to redistribute the controller’s weight to more accurately match the currently held object. The motors and weight are also used to create haptic feedback emulating the kick of shooting a gun.
In a video showing the prototype in action, you can see the controller’s various shapes corresponding to a smaller gun like a mini Uzi, a larger gun like an AK, and even a sword.
While the total weight of the controller of course doesn’t change, the center of gravity (and thus moment of inertia) does, which goes a long way to altering your perception of the held object’s shape. Rosado notes in the video that the virtual weapons in this case don’t have any artificial recoil; their movement is entirely based on the real feedback from the Nyoibo prototype.
While the Nyoibo controller is well demonstrated for use with various weapons, it’s easy to imagine how the concept could apply more broadly to represent other items like tools, sports equipment, and more.
Rosado says he’s working on a similar prototype for the Oculus Touch controllers. He appears to still be actively developing of the device; a short video posted earlier this month appears to show a slightly more refined prototype.
— JavierCantonFerrero (@jcant0n) February 10, 2018
Communicating weight and shape of objects in VR is a big challenge, and it’s being approached from several angles. In addition to Rosado interesting work, we’ve also seen shapeshifting controllers which allow players to manually change between different poses on the fly, static controllers which use physics to create the illusion of the player holding larger objects, and even software-driven approaches to communicating weight to players.