This VR system tethers your hands to your shoulders to improve haptics

Wireality could simulate more realistic walls, heavy objects and touchscreens.

Future Interfaces Group, Carnegie Mellon University

For years, researchers have been trying to bring improved haptics to virtual reality (VR) experiences. We’ve seen haptic suits from bHaptics and TeslaSuit, as well as VR boots, gloves and other handheld devices. Now, a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University is ready to introduce a new approach. Their wearable device connects users’ hands to their shoulders via spring-loaded cables. The researchers claim that the product, Wireality, can better simulate objects in VR.

The device sits on users’ shoulders, and the spring-loaded cables attach to each fingertip and a few points on the hand. Gears inside Wireality lock to create resistance, and the design takes advantage of the users’ upper body mass to simulate heavy and fixed objects. Wireality could make flat and curved VR surfaces, like walls and railings, more lifelike. It could also allow users to interact with touchscreens and buttons in ways that haptic systems with only vibrational motors don’t allow.

In a paper, the research team explains their design and how they kept Wireality lightweight, low-power and low-cost. They believe that it could cost less than $50 in volume production, and while the prototype is 273 grams in total, only 11 grams are worn on the hands -- making it lighter than, for instance, an HTC Vive controller, which weighs 203 grams.