The age of virtual reality is upon us, as the Oculus Rift is set to launch in Q1 of 2016, and companies are in a tech race to develop accessories which will enhance the virtual experience. It is not just the entertainment industry which is integrating virtual reality, we also see developments in healthcare and design, just to name a few. A number of these accessories are controllers and handsets, which allow users to immerse themselves more fully into the virtual reality by integrating their hand and finger movements. Imagine reaching to pick up an item in a game, and actually feeling the item in your hands! This effect and more are possible with recent developments. Check out the gloves, handsets and other sensors which are now available, and will help take virtual reality to the next level.
Gloves are one of the easiest ways to track the movements of the hands and fingers. With these products, the user simply slides on the gloves which will track movement, and syncs it with a virtual reality program. Each, however, has its own unique design and features.
Control VR Virtual Reality Gloves
The Control VR Virtual Reality Gloves are able to track every movement made by the user’s individual fingers, along with their hands and arms. The gloves then interpret these movements as input for a variety of compatible digital devices, as well as some forms of software. While most of the applications designed for the gloves are entertainment-based, the company behind the Control VR gloves is hoping they will have a much larger impact with uses in everyday life.
Hands Omni Glove
The aim of the Hands Omi Glove is to allow users (gamers especially) to touch, feel and interact with objects in a virtual world. The glove achieves this through the use of small bladders of air which line the inside of it, going up each finger and covering the palm of the hand. These enable sensations in a virtual world such as touching objects and holding them. The sensation is achieved through the small bladders of air either inflating or deflating on each fingertip, in response to the player’s actions in the world.
Next, we have the data gloves. These allow for natural gestures to be used in a virtual reality setting to perform tasks, although they can also be used in the non-virtual world. This lightweight glove has flexible sensors that continually measure the position and movements of the user’s fingers and wrists. Pressure sensors built into the glove are used when grasping objects. The glove itself comes in different models, each with a different number of sensors, depending on how the glove will be utilized. The glove can be used in many fields including robotics, surgical procedures, 3D modelling and gaming.
Manus Wireless Gloves
The Manus Wireless gloves are specifically created for the gaming sector and come with a box that holds motion sensors. These motion sensors track the movement of each hand, while each glove contains sensors located inside the glove for finger tracking. Tracking is totally wireless, using Bluetooth technology, which is then sent to a virtual reality headset where the user interacts with the specific virtual reality world of their choice.
Next up, we have a few products which do not come in glove form, but still track the movement of the hands. The following two products are placed on the user and will sense motion to allow for movement in virtual reality environments.
The UnlimitedHand is a controller which gets strapped to the forearm. The aim of the controller is to give the sensation of touch in a virtual environment or world. This is achieved by controlling the hands of the character in the virtual world through the use of muscle sensors. The sensors then give the user realistic feedback through a motor that vibrates, as well as an electronic muscle stimulator. This controller is mostly aimed at use in gaming.
Another product specifically designed for gamers is the PrioVR Pro. It uses 17 sensors attached to a suit which in turn offers 360-degree motion tracking in real time. The advantage of this suit is that there is no need for a camera, any form of optics, or large, ungainly equipment. The sensors themselves are placed on various parts of the body. These key areas then capture all body movements, translating them to real time, on-screen movements instantaneously. The suit can be used anywhere due to its wireless capabilities, and it also allows for multiple users.
Now that we have seen the latest gloves and sensing equipment on the market, let’s look at another way of interacting with virtual reality; through handsets. These also allow for further immersion in a virtual environment through controllers held in the hands. There are a wide variety of handsets which vary in design and function. Here are a collection of honorable mentions.
The SpaceBall 5000 is primarily a motion controller, featuring 12 programmable buttons, which is intended to be used with 3D software. The unit itself is operated in conjunction with a mouse, allowing the user to rotate, zoom or pan around 3D models. The real advantage of the SpaceBall 5000, is that all of these functions can be done at the same time. This unit is mostly used in design, and works in conjunction with over 100 current applications. Users have reported an increase in productivity of up to 30% while using the controller.
Oculus Touch Controllers
The Oculus Touch Controllers are composed of two wireless controllers which fit on each hand. The tracking technology used in these controllers, is the same that is found in the Oculus Rift headset. Each controller features a trigger system, two buttons and an analog stick. Feedback from the virtual world is provided back to the user through the controllers in the form of vibrations. The main aim of the Oculus Touch is the manipulation of objects in a virtual world.
Talon – The “Smart” Ring
The aim of the Talon “Smart” Ring is to allow a user to move in a virtual reality world, through the manipulation of the controller, using their hands and fingers. The ring itself is only 3.8 millimeters thick. The natural hand gestures are translated into the virtual reality world through Bluetooth, as well as a 9-axis motion control sensor (incorporating an accelerometer, gyroscope and compass). The ring can also connect to a wide range of devices including TV’s, computers, smartphones, tablets and VR headsets. The Talon “Smart” Ring is aimed at gamers specifically.
Trinity Magnum Controller Gun
The Trinity Magnum is a motion-tracking gun specifically designed for virtual reality first-person shooter worlds. It works by tracking physical movements through the gun itself. The player can then aim at various targets without their view being affected. This allows for a true feeling of interaction within the world of the virtual reality game. The Trinity gun works on numerous platforms including Unity, Windows and Linux.
Oculus Touch and Xbox Controller
The Oculus Touch will work in conjunction with the much anticipated Oculus Rift virtual reality system. It combines with the Xbox Controller to track the movements of the user’s hands. The controllers, when combined, form a half moon shape, one for each hand. These in turn have analogue sticks, buttons and trigger systems to enhance control and help interact with the world. Each controller also comes with various sensors that recognize a wide array of gestures. The gestures include waving, thumbs up or pointing. Of course, the main aim of the Oculus Touch is to give a user “hands” in a virtual environment. Objects can be interacted with in various ways, including picking them up, dropping them, or even throwing them.
PlayStation Move controller
Lastly, we have the Playstation Move controller. It was developed for use with the PlayStation gaming system, and is held in the hand. The controller has the same buttons that are offered on a PlayStation controller, but it allows for the user to interact with the gaming world by pointing at the screen to target, or using gestures to interact with the world. This is achieved by every movement being registered through the PlayStation Eye USB camera which accurately tracks the position of the player wirelessly.
Now you have an idea of the gloves, sensing equipment and hand handsets available for enhancing virtual reality environments by stimulating the hands. The choice on which to choose will vary depending on personal preference and what you intend to do in virtual reality. While the Spaceball 5000 is great for design applications, the Oculus Touch would be best for gamers who plan on purchasing the Oculus Rift headset.
Each and every one of these operate in their own unique way, but they all offer a way to interact with a virtual reality world. This does not only have important implications for the gaming sector, but in other fields as well, especially robotics and medicine.