Reactive Grip controller prototype circa 2014

Tactical Haptics is coming back to this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco to give a fresh demo of their haptic controller, Reactive Grip. The device aims to give popular motion tracking devices a more immersive feel for in-game object manipulation, adding a level of tactile feedback that goes beyond gamepad rumble packs.

Although Reactive Grip didn’t reach its Kickstarter funding goal back in December of 2013, Tactical Haptics has remained optimistic about their innovative haptic solution, which acts as a force feedback add-on to motion trackers like STEM tracking modules—and they’re far from giving up. In lieu of the expected crowdfunding bucks, the company has since received a few research innovation grants from the US government and are currently in residence at StartX, a Standford-affiliated non-profit organization set out to accelerate entrepreneurs “through experiential education.”

This will mark Tactical Haptics’ third appearance at GDC in San Francisco, where they’ll be showing off a prototype of Reactive Grip along with a demo called Crystal Defender, that will likely make good use of the peripheral’s unique ability to communicate a number of feedback cues to the user.

The star of the show is Reactive Grip’s specially designed handle, a feature that relays the “friction and shear forces you expect when holding an actual object such as a sword, slingshot, gun, or fishing rod.” It accomplishes this by integrating four sliding plates into the grip of the device that can independently move up and down, effectively simulating the weighty twist of a medieval flail or the recoil of a machine gun.

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HaptX Secures $1.5M Grant to Build Full-body Haptics for VR & Telepresence Robots

The device still has some battles ahead of it though. Due to the inability to natively track motion, the first iteration of the design clipped onto a number of theoretical tracking solutions, ranging from the Razer Hydra to the humble WiiMote—meaning you would have to purchase two devices to get the complete experience. However the second prototype version, the one we got our hands on back at GDC 2013, demonstrated the a unit with onboard motion tracking, courtesy of the guts taken from a Razer Hydra.

See Also: Tactical Haptics Readies new Reactive Grip Controller Prototype for GDC Debut

tactical haptics reactive grip gdc 2014 prototype vertical
Reactive Grip prototype shown at GDC 2014

The third iteration, and most recent prototype we’ve seen at GDC 2014, accepts the STEM motion tracking modules in a much sleeker and refined package—but there’s no telling what Tactical has cooked up since then, as the company has remained tight-lipped on both engineering and business development side of the company.

The company says that prospective developers will be able to integrate the device using Reactive Grip’s SDK, which  provides haptic feedback examples in Unity 3D and is soon to offer support for Unreal Engine 4 as well.

Dr. William Provancher, an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah and Founder of Tactical Haptics, will be demoing Reactive Grip with the DK2 demo Crystal Defender on March 4-6, 2015 in Booth #2442 at Moscone Center’s South Hall.

Road to VR will be on the ground at GDC 2015, and reporting on any updates of the Reactive Grip haptic controller (and anything else we can get our hands on), so check back in early March for breaking news, articles, and videos of all things VR from this years Game Developers Conference.

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  • Happy to see they are still working on this :) I backed the original campaign as I really want to experience haptics in VR, it just seems very compelling and this looks as a simple enough technique to be a viable consumer product.

    Always the case of chicken and egg with new controllers though, consumer user base vs incentive to implement support by developers :3 Hrm… I’d still back this again, especially as I’m at some point getting the STEM kit so I can just add a pack to it :o maybe.

    16 hours later I come back to see I never clicked submit. Well, here goes :P

  • Wmerr21

    So did Tactical Haptics end up demonstrating this prototype at GDC? It just seems like it would be a great feature to have integrated into the SteamVR controllers.

    • Paul James

      Yup, we’ll have a hands-on and interview up later today.