Grabbing Virtual Objects with the HaptX Glove

  • Kent Bye

The HaptX Glove that was shown at Sundance was one of the most convincing haptics experiences that I’ve had in VR. While it was still primitive, I was able to grab a virtual object in VR, and for the first time have enough haptic feedback to convince my brain that I was actually grabbing something. Their glove uses a combination of exoskeletal force feedback with their patented microfluidic technology, and they’ve significantly reduced the size of their external box driving the experience from the demo that I saw at GDC (back when they were named AxonVR) thanks to a number of technological upgrades and ditching the temperature feedback.

I had a chance to talk with CEO & co-founder Jake Rubin and Chief Revenue Officer Joe Michaels at Sundance where we talked about why enterprise & military training customers are really excited about this technology, some of the potential haptics-inspired interactive storytelling possibilities, how they’re refining the haptics resolution fidelity distribution that will provide the optimal experience, and their collaboration with SynTouch’s texture-data models in striving towards creating a haptic display technology that can simulate a wide ranges of textures.

HaptX was using a Vive tracker puck for arm orientation, but they had to develop customized magnetic tracking to get the level of precision required to simulate individual finger movements, and one side effect is that their technology could start to be used as an input device. Some of HaptX’s microfludic technologies combined with a new air valve that is 1000x more precise could also start to create unique haptics technologies that could have some really interesting applications for sensory replacement or sensory substitution or start to be used in assisting data visualizations in a similar way that sound enhances spatialization through a process called sonification.

Overall, HaptX is making rapid progress and huge leaps with their haptics technologies and they’ve crossed a threshold for becoming useful enough for a number of different enterprise and military training applications. Rubin isn’t convinced that VR haptics will ever be able to fully trick the brain in a way that’s totally indistinguishable from reality, but they’re getting to the point where it’s good enough to start to be used creatively in training and narrative experiences. Perhaps soon we’ll be seeing some of HaptX’s technology in location-based entertainment applications created by storytellers who got to experience their technology at Sundance this year, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how their textures haptic display evolves over the next year. (source)