Lingering Questions

TEGway’s ThermoReal demo is in many ways promising, but there’s a number of questions that still need to be answered to determine practicality of use for VR.

For one, the prototype device I saw was wired and connected to a large box. Exactly how much energy is required to achieve the levels of hot and cold that I felt is unknown to me. Ideally integration with VR controllers or gloves would be wireless and thus battery-operated. In order to not churn through batteries, the device would need to be very efficient.

An example of ThermoReal built into a traditional gamepad form-factor | Photo by Road to VR

Another question is how much bulk it would add when integrated. The prototype wand I used was relatively large (a little bigger than a Vive controller) but only contained the electronics for the thermal haptics (no tracking or buttons). The thermoelectric skin itself is very thin and flexible, but it isn’t clear to me yet how much supporting hardware is required for it to achieve the speed and amplitude of the thermal haptics that I felt in the demo.

SEE ALSO
Hands-on: Go Touch VR's Haptic Feedback is So Simple You'll Wonder Why You Didn't Think of it First

And of course there’s cost. TEGway says they’ve already manufactured a large scale batch of engineering samples, and that a commercial production run of the device is due in late 2017 or early 2018. How much the materials add to the cost of VR hardware is a major unanswered question at the moment, and so too is the durability of the skin itself and whether the fluctuating temperature could have a long-term impact on the durability of the device in which ThermoReal is integrated (as fast and large temperature fluctuations can lead to excess material stress through expansion and contraction).

These are questions we’ll have in mind as we continue to follow the development of this interesting thermal haptic device.

1
2

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. See here for more information.


  • Andrew Campbell

    Can anyone explain how this works using the Seebeck effect instead of the Peltier effect?

    • Raphael

      Yes, Henry can.

    • Raphael

      Yes, Henry can.

  • Lucidfeuer

    Aren’t there easier way to imply temperature effects like TENS?

    • Raphael

      Yes, ice cubes and blow torch.

      • Caven

        Now, now, we’re not trying to extract information from a prisoner. :P

    • Setuping TENS is pain in the ass(or may be), because hardware has to have some certifications bacause it may be danger, and resistance of human skin varieties. Sorry for my english.

  • Lucidfeuer

    Aren’t there easier way to imply temperature effects like TENS?

  • Chris Gates

    Is anyone asking for this?
    I’m trying to get excited for it but…
    Of all the problems that need solving, this one is near the bottom of the list.

    • Raphael

      It’s only at the bottom of the list because you haven’t tried it even though you use it every fecking day of your life. Therefore I would say it’s pretty far up the scale just like body vibration feedback.

  • Eric Lotze

    To me this seems like warehouse scale vr might be the main market for this because of the software being more flexible unlike at home triple a games etc. Speaking of TENS, does anyone know what became of tesla suit? Their demo on dnews impressed me, but ever since ive seen nothing from them.

  • psuedonymous

    ” Exactly how much energy is required to achieve the levels of hot and cold that I felt is unknown to me. ”

    The Seebeck Effect is used in Peltier coolers, and this is essentially a Peltier on a flexible substrate. The power consumption is therefore (at a minimum, because efficiency is not 100%) double the energy removed from your skin, or a little more than 1x the energy imparted into your skin.

    For example, say you have a patch 10cm by 5cm, or 50cm^2. Say you want to keep power consumption below 1W (so your 2x 1.3v 2000mAh batteries can run it for a few hours). Thermoreceptors are about 0.2mm beneath the skin, and you are mostly water, so you need to heat around 1ml (1 gram) of water. To raise 1g of water by 1°C takes 1 calorie, or 4.2 joules. 1W = 1 joule per second, so you need ~4 seconds for every degree of temperature change per watt in this example, and double that for cooling.

    The thermal camera example shows about a 10°C drop in one second. For our hypothetical 10cm x 5cm patch, that would need around 80 watts of power.

  • Nice device and nice questions.
    Miniaturizing it can be far from easy, they should be completely integrated into a super-thin controller like the upcoming SteamVR ones.
    Companies like Magic Leap are struggling just because of miniaturization… so it’s something they should be really concerned.