Microsoft research works on “touching” virtual reality objects

Microsoft Research has presented a new way to interact with virtual reality by touch. As haptic solutions for virtual reality, NormalTouch and TextureTouch 3D haptic shape controllers are able to explore the virtual space with just your finger. Currently, the controller only supports the index finger, but who knows what else could be developed with further innovations.

The 3D objects are tracked in virtual reality with the Optitrack system and presented through the Oculus Rift headset.  The NormalTouch renders the surface of virtual objects by using a flat platform that tilts, extrudes, and turns based on the shape of the digital objects. The TextureTouch uses a matrix of 4×4 pins that give the finger the impression of the shape by rising and falling based on the shape. This controller gives a finer detail into the texture, letting the sixteen pins bump up and down for coarser 3D objects.

Thanks to the OptiTrack system, the controllers are limited from penetrating through virtual objects and can even detail the softness of each digital surface. Touching a ‘soft’ object would impress more than pressing against the more ‘firm’ object in which the pins wouldn’t move.


During testing, users were able to have a more productive experience with virtual reality by involving the haptic controllers. Studied alongside the currently available vibrotactile device, both controllers had excelling areas such as a higher accuracy of touch with the TextureTouch.

Read the full research submitted for more details. Let us know in the comments if you’re looking forward to these sorts of advances in virtual reality.

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