Microsoft Research has made progress over the years and moving towards a virtual reality experience where feelings in the VR setting are on par with the realistic visuals produced by head-mounted displays. Microsoft Research has moved beyond some of its past prototypes with a new controller called Haptic PIVOT to bring physical forces to VR controllers.
Haptic PIVOT is worn on the wrist and is a portable device with a haptic handle that can move in and out of the hand on-demand. In the demo video below, you can see the Haptic PIVOT controller and action as the user picks an apple from a virtual tree, and the pivot swings a bulbous end into the user’s hand. The user can also toss the apple back and forth between their hands, feeling it impact as it’s caught in the virtual world.
Microsoft’s controller allows users to squeeze the virtual fruit in their hands and manipulate it. The controller can mimic the momentum and drag of thrown and caught objects governed by Newton’s laws. It can simulate the speed of objects when reaching the hand. The robotized haptic handle only deploys when needed, approaching, and finally reaching the hand, creating the feeling of first contact.
The heart of the design is the hinge mechanism and haptic handle. The handle is interchangeable and can be swapped out for existing controllers. The prototype handle developed by the researchers had touch sensors that can detect contact and release of objects. It also features a voice coil actuator to provide proper tactile feedback and a trigger switch for control input.
A modified servo motor operates the handle for the hinge. It is summoned into the individual’s hands-on demand. Researchers say this capability makes it ideal for augmented reality or blended scenarios. A flick of the wrist could initiate PIVOT to place the handle into their palm, allowing them to interact with virtual objects. Another flick of the wrist can retract the handle with both summoning actions detected by an internal accelerometer. The handle uses a passive radioulnar hinge allowing users to move the wrist freely from side to side up to 60 degrees.