VR advances are still not limited to the creation of high-quality experiences. Current promises go beyond 3D contents, and we are starting to see a great effort to produce standalone VR headsets and haptic technologies that could drive future development paths for VR.
Past month, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 showcased new fresh developments, namely with VR headsets, haptic devices controllers and wireless, which may shape the next generation of VR systems. Nevertheless, not only at CES but all around the globe, more and more devices and interactions are generated to enhance the user experience in VR.
In this article, we will explore devices with wireless features, controllers, haptic feedback and the most recent VR headsets.
HTC launched the HTC Vive PRO headset, which has increased its resolution by 78 percent to give viewers a closer-to-reality and more immersive experience. The upgraded version offers a 2880x1600 display (previously 2160x1200), a 615 pixel density, headphones and dual mics integrated in the headset. Moreover, they announced a wireless adaptor that will let users wirelessly access content through Intel’s WiGig technology. It received over 22 awards from CES 2018.
However, the HTC Vive PRO headset is still missing UHD/4K videom which are becoming common standards for displaying devices. To overcome this absence, the fifth version of the Pimax 8K VR Headset, announced at CES 2018, will start shipping on the second quarter of 2018. Despite the resolution of 7640 x 2160 due to a combination of two 3820 x 2160 lenses and a 200-degree field of view and a resolution, people complain about its weight and lack of ergonomics.
A more futuristic headset was presented by the Looxid Labs. The LooxidVR headset aims to provide a system for human behavior research by capturing user reactions. It includes two eye-tracking cameras, six EEG sensors and HTC’s Vive X technology, that can measure eye movement and brain activity resulting in valuable information about the user’s emotions. As a result, they won the Best of Innovation Award at CES 2018 and the Startup Battlefield prize at Tech Crunch Disrupt San Francisco 2017.
Other big players have also written and changed their story in terms of VR headsets. The Chinese giant, Xiaomi, settled a partnership with Facebook as a hardware partner to launch two VR products: Facebook’s Oculus Go and Mi VR.
Lenovo was another player who launched a standalone VR headset with no connection to wires, PCs or phones. The major benefits are the easiness to setup and the ability to record, watch and share VR content. To complement this, Lenovo will provide a camera with Daydream technology to let users capture their own VR video in 180 degrees and watch it on Lenovo Mirage Solo.
Everyone wants to be seamlessly, effortlessly and entirely immersed in VR. Many devices have been suggested to let users feel textures, weight, smell, temperature and impact of virtual objects. VR can never be too immersive, at least until you feel touching the void.
Several gloves have been suggested to solve an enduring problem in VR, namely to feel what you touch. Contact CI’s Maestro Haptic Glove was considered one of the most impressive demos at CES 2018. It allowed people to experience the sensation of touching in things that do not exist in our reality, while simulating the tension, pressure, and push back of virtual objects. It is able to capture a wide range of hand movements and provide immersion benefits due to the haptic feedback on each fingertip. Maestro system uses biomimicry to generate tension along each finger of the glove.
The Dexmo glove, designed by a team of Chinese and European roboticists, uses a miniaturized force-feedback solution to let users grasp and hold items in VR. Unlike other VR gloves that use vibration motors or electrodes for feedback, the Dexmo employs a mechanical system that applies varying degrees of torque to the fingers.
Haptx is another company trying to overcome this challenge. Haptx Skin is a microfluidic smart textile that delivers high fidelity tactile feedback. The gloves have more than 100 points where air bubbles can be inflated to displace your skin and make you feel something as you move your hand through the virtual world. Haptx combines this with motion-tracking technology to figure out where your hand is in a 3D space and the kind of feedback it should send to your hand.
In addition to glove devices, a Korean startup's TactSuit created a wireless kit consisting of a haptic mask, two haptic sleeves and a haptic vest with 87 feedback points (seven on the face, 20 on the front of the vest, another 20 on the back, and 20 on each sleeve) powered by eccentric rotating mass vibration motors. The clear advantage with such a high density of feedback points is the development of more immersive experiences.
Unfortunately, many solutions are still not ready for market and with low price. Let’s wait for future updates.
We are currently living in a moment in which is difficult to find the best ways of controlling and manipulating the VR world. Peripheral makers around the world are trying to solve this issue, by suggesting a wide range of devices that capture our movements, brain and muscle activity, voice, and translate this information to the virtual world.
Recently, the Teslasuit has also proven quite a significant progress towards a more immersive VR experience, working both as a haptic device and controller. This full-body suit with haptic feedback, motion capture, and temperature/climate control, will take VR experiences to something closer to out-of-body experiences. From 46 haptic points in real time, it can simultaneously stimulate multiple muscle groups. On the other hand, the suit includes 14 motion capture sensors that basically write your body into a virtual space, which may be used to create a VR personalized experience through the creation of an Avatar.
Finally, MSI, Zotac, HP and Alienware have all announced portable backpacks that let you carry around a powerful PC to run VR - and to literally run while in VR.
We are now on full gas on the VR exploration... What about you - will you be an early-adopter of any of these devices?