Microsoft Research Haptic Official

Microsoft has talked a lot over the last week about how it wants to change virtual reality. The company believes it can create a more responsive and immersive VR experience. Microsoft Research has detailed its work on improving haptic feedback to bring the real world into the virtual one.

Virtual reality offers the user a hugely immersive experience. It places in another environment where anything is feasible. However, real-world interaction is not possible as the user is in the virtual creation. Touching something, interacting with anything in the real world, or even seeing aspects of it damages the VR experience.

At its event in New York a week ago, Microsoft spoke about using its HoloLens technology for VR. HoloLens, of course, uses augmented reality, which puts the virtual creation within the existing real-world environment. This mixed reality concept can be extended to virtual reality.

Microsoft Research is expanding that idea by making haptic feedback to bring more realism to the VR environment. Instead of using air gestures for interactions, the team created “NormalTouch” and “TextureTouch”. These tools help immerse users more with handheld devices serving to simulate touch.

Real Touch

The obvious upshot is the ability to interact with object in the virtual space. In reality, the user would be interacting with the handheld device.

These devices use a 4×4 grid of pins to convey the touch and feel of objects. You can see Microsoft Research put the NormalTouch and TextureTouch features to the test in the video above.

“On several occasions we observed people trying out our devices when they were not well calibrated (e.g., NormalTouch would render a surface normal in a drastically different direction than it was supposed to),” Microsoft Research says. “To our surprise, people often claimed that the device accurately rendered the surface when in fact it was obviously incorrect. While anecdotal, this points to the need to further evaluate whether or not it is important to precisely match the haptic rendering in order for it to be considered realistic and high fidelity.”