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(Pocket-lint) - Virtual reality is such an immersive experience, but not being able to realistically touch things can sometimes detract from the overall experience.

You can see and grab items in the virtual world, but you're always holding a virtual controller of one sort or another and a rumble isn't really enough to make up for that. 

This might be set to change thanks to Microsoft though. The company is working on a new haptic focussed controller which makes use of various sensors and a motorised gizmo to more accurately simulate the experience of grabbing items in VR. 

As you'll see from the video, this system essentially attaches the controller to your wrist instead of your palm. It then senses when you're moving to grab or pick something up and mimics the expected movement and results to deliver a truer experience. 

Haptic PIVOT, as it's known, is designed to account for the physics of forces as well. In this example, not only the feeling of the apple in the hand, but the feeling of resistance as it's plucked from the tree branch. Then following that sensation with the response that comes from dropping (or throwing) the apple into a nearby basket or catching it in your other hand. 

Of course, at this stage, PIVOT is merely a prototype that's being tested. But Microsoft says that It could be used in different ways with the mechanism being moved out of the way when not in use so a user could be hands-free in VR or use a keyboard or mouse without having to remove the controller. 

The intelligence of Haptic PIVOT can be seen in the video. As Microsoft goes onto explain:

"The true power of PIVOT shines when interacting with virtual objects. Take picking the apple from the tree as an example. A combination of mechanics, electronics, firmware, and software works together from the moment the apple enters reaching range to the moment it’s resting in the palm of the individual’s hand."

This is complemented by hand-tracking systems that exist on something like Microsoft HoloLens to detect where the user's hands are and have the PIVOT controller react accordingly.

In other words, the speed and force of movement should match your movement for the most realistic experience. The company says that PIVOT can even accurately simulate the feeling of catching a ball thrown at 55.9mph. 

The future vision of this sort of system is not only for playing games and simulating sports but also for realistic collaboration in a virtual workspace as well. 

Writing by Adrian Willings. Originally published on 22 October 2020.
  • Source: Physics matters: Haptic PIVOT, an on-demand controller, simulates physical forces such as momentum and gravity - microsoft.com
Sections Microsoft AR & VR