Tactical Haptics is debuting it's newly developed reconfigurable haptic controllers and new game content at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This new design adds the ability to reconfigure and mate the haptic controllers together on-the-fly to transform the user’s virtual reality (VR) interaction to match their hand/controller configuration (see controller images). The reconfigurable controller design builds on the repackaged controller design available with the VR experience, Justice League: An IMAX VR® Exclusive at the Los Angeles IMAX VR Centre since November 2017.
The reconfigurable controllers are designed to allow them to be used independently or to mate together in common interaction configurations, such as a steering wheel, game-pad, or machine-gun pose. Mechanical sockets on the controllers provide mate-points on each of the controllers to form semi-rigid couplings between the controllers that allow users to effortlessly maintain the mated poses. This allows users to transform interaction modes by acting out their intended action as opposed to clicking a button, so that they remain immersed in the VR experience. That is, VR experiences transform to match the user’s controller configuration (mated or otherwise), so that when they mate the controllers to pantomime forming a steering wheel to drive a vehicle, the on-screen interaction and associated haptic feedback is programmed to reflect this transformation and feeling of turning a steering wheel. Significant effort was also put into the placement of the mating sockets to facilitate ergonomic hand poses when mated as well as facilitate mating/de-mating while in VR (i.e., when you cannot directly see the controllers).
As with their prior haptic controllers, the company’s unique brand of touch feedback is created by applying friction and shear forces through actuated plates on the surface of controller handle, which creates tactile illusions of inertia, elasticity, impact, etc, when these shear forces are applied in response to the user’s actions.
The company has also developed a new game experience called “Colony Defense” to highlight the capabilities of its new reconfigurable controllers. This game has the player defend a space colony against incoming waves of space insects. The game features both building and combat interaction as part of the game, similar in spirit to strategy games like Starcraft, but in contrast Colony Defense is first-person and hands-on. For example, the CES game play begins only after the player mates their controllers to form a physics gun and assembles a gun turret. And as expected with our haptic controllers, the player can feel the heft of each piece of the turret as well as the snap as the turret pieces are assembled into place (see image). Once assembled, the player can reposition the turret with the physics gun using their right hand and/or use their left hand controls to fly through space with their jet pack. Separating the player’s hands maintains the jet-pack controls in the player’s left hand, but the right hand now holds a blaster (see image). A heavy blaster can be formed by mating the controllers in the fore-aft configuration (see image). The CES Colony Defense demo is a “work in progress,” but nicely demonstrates the potential of the reconfigurable controllers.
In addition to Colony Defense and the company’s prior “Cyber Golf” mini-game shown at the 2017 Game Developers Conference, the company will also show a new “brick breaker” style VR game it calls “Cyber Smash” that allows the user to clear levels of blocks, while feeling the inertia of throwing smash-balls and the settling of the ball after it rebounds and is caught by the player (see image). The company will also be working on multiplayer versions of these games, as part of its near term refocusing on location-based entertainment (LBE). The company is seeking partner opportunities with high-profile LBEs as well as manufacturing partners while at CES.
The controllers currently use 3rd party tracking while in the dev kit stage and has tracker mounts for both Oculus Touch and Vive Tracker currently (Oculus Touch mounting shown in the accompanying images, whereas IMAX VR is using the Vive Tracker version).
For more information on the company’s touch feedback, please visit: http://tacticalhaptics.com/media/#NBCLearn
Link to press release: http://tacticalhaptics.com/ces-2018-reconfigurable-haptic-controllers/