Haptic technology is an ensemble of technological devices enabling the stimulation of the sense of touch. It may be compared with both audio and video reproduction techniques, by considering the whole technology ensemble enabling the reproduction of video and audio stimulations.
Within the term Haptic Technology there is a number of techniques which enable a particular stimulation of the touch sense, which, a part from the vibration stimulus in smartphones, are not yet being exploited by the technological community. Among the multiple available way to stimulate the finger, it is possible to name:
- vibratory stimulation by haptic motors in smartphones.
- indentation stimulation by braille screens
- shape simulation by electro-active polymers
- friction modulation by electrovibration or ultrasonic vibrations
- pain stimulation by electrostimulation
- force feedback from exoskeletons
The complicated matter around haptic is that the tactile information is encoded by the mechanical displacement of the skin when touching an object, which in the case of the finger assumes a rounded shape. To reproduce a fully realistic tactile sensation, the correct encoding of the shape of the touched object, as well as the vibratory pattern induced on the finger, may be necessary.
At this point, it has not been found a technology able to reproduce the whole range of sensations perceived by the human, and for each different task, a custom device needs to be designed to maximize the user experience.
Nowadays, VR haptic device, such as Oculus Touch or HTC Vive controllers, just use vibrational stimulation, like smartphones, to provide information to the users. This approach is probably the most unnatural possible, vibrational signals are not present in nature and are artificial by definition. It was found that most of the user define the haptic vibration of smartphones as unpleasant while interacting with it.
This approach is used in VR because of its price.
These are the reasons behind the design of our wearable VRTouch. We designed it for VR from a radically different approach. We studied the best haptic interaction for VR and designed a completely different device around these characteristics, everything with an affordable price for an everyday user.