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Virtual Reality News
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    Today at the Steam Dev Days conference in Seattle, Valve is showing off brand new prototypes of its Steam VR controllers. While the original VR controllers that ship with the HTC Vive are undoubtedly functional, it’s widely agreed that Oculus’ forthcoming ‘Touch’ controllers are a big step forward in ergonomics. That gap may soon be a thing of the past, as Valve is showcasing new VR controller prototypes at Steam Dev Days which offer a much different take on the design. The new SteamVR controller prototypes have a much smaller footprint handprint than what’s in the hands of HTC Vive users today. The prototypes are not so much held as they are (optionally) gripped; a band hooking over the side of the user’s palm connects the core of the controller to a sort of backhand gripper which appears to keep the controller attached to the hand even while it isn’t being held. The controllers can be seen dotted in uncovered SteamVR Tracking sensors, just like prototypes of the original controller. One source from the event says that each controller has 21 sensors. Important thing here- you can close your hand halfway. #SteamDevDays — Fox B @SteamDevDays (@FoxBuchele) October 12, 2016 Developers at the conference today who have tried the controller say that users can ‘let go’ of the controller while in use, and it stays attached to the hand. This allows virtual objects to be thrown with the aid of the natural muscle-memory of opening one’s hand as they throw, an instinct that must be subdued with other controllers to save from throwing the controller clear across the room (always to hit a TV, somehow). Always wear your wrist straps, folks. "Being actually able to throw things and let go…it's huge" @saniul on the new #Vive controllers #SteamDevDays — Eva @ SteamDevDays (@downtohoerth) October 12, 2016 It appears that the controller may also support variable states between ‘open hand’ and ‘gripped hand’, reflecting a more natural connection between the user’s real and virtual hand positions. The Valve VR controller prototypes appear to be 3D printed and feature a trigger and trackpad with three face buttons surrounding it. Some photos appear to show an array of LEDs across the front of the controller though the component’s function remains unknown. With Valve not inviting any press to Steam Dev Days, further details surrounding the controller are thin; it’s not currently known what the company’s plans are for the controller going forward, but we’ll keep you in the know as we learn more.

    The post First Look at Valve’s New VR Controller Prototype appeared first on Road to VR.

    Photo courtesy Shawn Whitinghtc-vive-pre-controller-3valve-vr-controller-prototype-3valve-vr-controller-prototype-4valve-vr-controller-prototypePhoto courtesy Shawn Whitinghtc-vive-pre-controller-3valve-vr-controller-prototype-3valve-vr-controller-prototype-4valve-vr-controller-prototype

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    Microsoft Research has devised two novel methods for more realistic haptic feedback on virtual reality controllers. They call it NormalTouch and TextureTouch. Haptic feedback in general-purpose controllers has been limited to vibration feedback since the introduction of the Rumble Pak for the Nintendo 64 in 1997. Vibration motors come in all shapes and sizes, the most popular being the Eccentric Rotating Mass (ERM) motor, found most modern gamepads. Mobile phones often use very small ERM motors, or. more recently, linear actuators. Linear actuators tend to offer more haptic ‘detail’ and responsiveness, as can be found in Apple’s ‘Taptic Engine’, the HTC Vive controllers, an the Oculus Touch controllers. While vibrations as haptic feedback is the current state of the art in the consumer realm, limitations remain. Tactile feedback has proven to be effective across a wide variety of applications, but if you’re looking for significant force or resistance in your haptics, you need kinesthetic feedback. This is commonly available through force-feedback controllers, which tend to be designed for a specific task, such as joysticks for flight/space simulators, and wheels for driving simulators. The wealth of powerful haptic hardware on the market is one of the main reasons why flight and driving simulations are already so effective in VR. The closest product to a general-purpose kinesthetic controller is probably still the Novint Falcon, first shown in 2006, but this is also fairly limited, as it needs to be attached to a desk. Microsoft Research’s new experimental controllers bring kinesthetics into the VR space, offering two types of force-feedback applied to fully-tracked motion controllers. NormalTouch uses three servo motors to operate a small disc with tilt and extrusion movements, and TextureTouch uses a bank of 16 servos to operate a 4×4 pixel array of small blocks that move up and down to correspond to virtual shapes and structures. The result is a feeling of physical resistance as you drag your finger across a virtual shape, with enough fidelity to actually convey a sense of touch and an understanding of an object’s form and texture. In both controllers, the feedback surface acts on a single finger or thumb, which may limit the practical use cases. But the key point is that this type of feedback is normally the domain of dedicated devices, elaborate gloves, or exoskeletons, whereas Microsoft Research’s designs are based on a normal handheld controller, which Michael Abrash, Oculus’ Chief Scientist, recently suggested could remain the standard input for VR for decades to come. Texture is one thing, but offering real resistance (where the virtual world can push back on you) is still a pipe dream however, as there is nothing preventing the user from clipping through objects with today’s VR controllers. But with more realistic haptics, the desire to clip through something is reduced, in the same way that more realistic VR visuals often prevents people from trying to walk through virtual objects. In their testing, the Microsoft Research team developed a ‘penetration compensation’ technique, that made it appear that the user’s hand was not clipping, by decoupling them from the real tracking location. The finger is the most sensitive part of the hand to kinesthetic feedback, so this is effective, although it remains to be seen how this haptic-visual mismatch could work in a less controlled environment. The research group’s findings are promising even at this early stage. Three tests were run—targeting accuracy, tracing accuracy and fidelity assessment—and both controllers were used, comparing them to vibration-only feedback and visual-only feedback. Both new haptic feedback techniques demonstrated advantages over vibration and visual only tests, despite some of the limitations of the prototypes causing issues. The designs can no doubt be improved dramatically in terms of ergonomics, range of movement, responsiveness and detail, but already testers reacted positively to the heightened sense of touch. It was noted that the fact it’s already effective demonstrates the overriding power of the visual system, and that perhaps fully detailed or accurate feedback isn’t too critical, as the visual system automatically makes the corrections. Perhaps the toughest challenge of this project is in improving the physical design. Any device with a large number of mechanical parts always comes at a cost, usually in the form of weight and noise, and that’s certainly the case here. If this technology was utilized for a consumer product it would need to get smaller while staying quiet and reliable. It’s an area of research that is worth pursuing further, but it’s unclear at this stage how likely these prototype haptic technologies are to find their way into a real product.

    The post Microsoft Research Demonstrates VR Controller Prototypes With Unique Haptic Technology appeared first on Road to VR.


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    Tactical Haptics, a company pioneering a novel form of haptic feedback which can create compelling sensations that go far beyond rumble, announced today it has raised $2.2 million to create a development kit of a haptic VR controller as a stepping stone to an eventual consumer product. Tactical Haptics is one of the OGs of […]

    The post Tactical Haptics Raises $2.2 Million to Build Haptic VR Controller Dev Kit appeared first on Road to VR.

    Tactical Haptics Reactive Grip controller prototype circa 2014Tactical Haptics Reactive Grip controller prototype circa 2014

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    The new Leap Motion Mobile Platform consists of hardware and software optimised for VR and AR hand tracking on mobile devices. Building on the success of the original Leap Motion device, the brand new hardware aims to be tightly integrated into future mobile VR headsets. Designed as a natural motion interface for PC and Mac, […]

    The post Leap Motion’s New Mobile Hand-tracking Sensor Brings 180-degree Field of View appeared first on Road to VR.

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    Ilium VR are working on a new VR-centric gun peripheral which plans to use Valve’s SteamVR ‘Lighthouse’ tracking to bring realistic weapon control to virtual reality games. Shooting things in games is cool. Shooting things in VR can be infinitely cooler. Add in a dedicated controller that gives you the physical feel of a weapon and […]

    The post ‘Athena’ is a New Lighthouse Tracked VR Gun Controller from Ilium VR appeared first on Road to VR.

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    At GDC 2017, developers Impulse Gear confirmed that their VR shooter Farpoint has Co-op, and will launch in a bundle with the PS VR Aim Controller on May 16th. An ‘unnerving space adventure set on a hostile alien world’, Farpoint is a free-movement FPS exclusive to PlayStation VR. Build from the group up for PlayStation […]

    The post PSVR Aim Controller Launches with ‘Farpoint’ on May 16th, Co-op Confirmed appeared first on Road to VR.

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    Tactical Haptics, developers of the Reactive Grip controller, are showing their latest prototypes now with attachments for the Vive Tracker, Oculus Touch, and a custom-built SteamVR Tracking solution. The controller employs a unique solution to haptic feedback which aims to recreate the feeling of friction against objects in your hands rather than just rumble. The […]

    The post Hands-on: Reactive Grip Haptic Controller Prototype with Vive Tracker, Touch, and Custom SteamVR Tracking appeared first on Road to VR.

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    Qualcomm has debuted an updated version of their VR Headset Reference Design now with Leap Motion’s new 180-degree hand-tracking to bring gesture control to mobile VR headsets. The new headset and Leap Motion tracking module was shown off during last week’s GDC 2017. Qualcomm’s VR Headset Reference Design has been upgraded to the company’s new […]

    The post Leap Motion’s New 180-degree Hand-tracking Comes to Qualcomm’s Latest VRDK Headset appeared first on Road to VR.

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    VRgluv has blown past its $100,000 funding goal in 56 hours on their Kickstarter page, with 27 days still to go. The product is described as the “first affordable force feedback gloves” that feature “total hand tracking, full force feedback, and pressure sensitivity”. Update (4/28/17, 12:39PM PT): VRGluv has now exceeded its $100,000 Kickstarter goal, […]

    The post VRgluv Force-feedback Glove Blasts Past $100K Kickstarter Goal in 56 Hours appeared first on Road to VR.

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    Today Microsoft has unveiled their Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers. The controllers fill in a major gap in Microsoft’s strategy to become the “most complete platform across the broadest range of mixed reality devices and experiences.”  While we expect to hear a lot more about the company’s VR controllers at the Build conference today, Microsoft has […]

    The post Microsoft Reveals Motion Controllers for Mixed Reality Headsets Coming This Holiday appeared first on Road to VR.

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    Having done the core R&D for what would become the Vive controllers, Valve is continuing to iterate on VR input. The company’s new ‘Knuckles’ controllers are not so much ‘held’ as they are ‘worn’, offering users a natural grab and release motion without dropping the controller. Since their debut toward the end of 2016 at […]

    The post Valve’s Knuckles Controllers Get Ergonomic Improvements, Begin Arriving at Devs’ Doorsteps appeared first on Road to VR.

    Image courtesy Cloudhead GamesImage courtesy Cloudhead Games

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    New footage of Valve’s new ‘Knuckles’ controllers has emerged over the past few days, as developers begin to test out the new device. The ‘next-gen’ SteamVR controller prototypes represent a major advancement over the current Vive motion controllers, with five finger tracking and an ‘open hand’ grip. The new controllers have been shipping to select […]

    The post Developer Videos Show Valve’s Knuckles Controllers in Action appeared first on Road to VR.

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    Microsoft debuted the lengthily-named “Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers” back in May, but until now we haven’t had a chance to actually try them out. During a recent meeting with Microsoft in San Francisco, I got to try the VR controllers for the first time paired with the Acer Windows VR headset. Microsoft’s VR controllers […]

    The post Hands-on: Microsoft’s “Mixed Reality” VR Motion Controllers appeared first on Road to VR.

    Image courtesy MicrosoftImage courtesy Microsoft

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    Earlier this week we shared our first hands-on with Microsoft’s VR controllers, but at the time the company didn’t allow us to document the session with photos or videos. Now, a developer with the controllers has produced a handy overview that shows how they work and gives a glimpse of them in action. The Windows […]

    The post Developer Shows Microsoft’s VR Controllers in Action appeared first on Road to VR.

    Image courtesy Sean OngImage courtesy Sean Ong

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    In a study lead by Eisuke Fujinawa at the University of Tokyo, a team of students created a procedure for designing compact VR controllers that feel physically larger. Exploring the concept of ‘haptic shape illusion’, the controllers have data-driven, precise mass properties, aiming to simulate the same feeling in the hand as the larger objects […]

    The post ‘Haptic Shape Illusion’ Allows VR Controllers to Simulate Feel of Physically Larger Objects appeared first on Road to VR.

    Image courtesy Fujinawa et al.Image courtesy Fujinawa et al.