Virtual Reality (VR) simulations are great fun, and packed with possibility for the future. The tech could change how close we are to the action during a concert or a movie — even changing how we make them in the first place. VR could bring a whole new immersion to video games, or have practical applications in the workplace — helping surgeons safely practice tricky manoeuvres, or remote operators feel closer to the dangerous thing they’re interacting with.
But other than accurately replicating the sights and sounds of the digital world, the overall VR experience remains rather rudimentary. Handheld controls can vibrate, but there’s no way of feeling what it’s actually like to hold a pristine scalpel or a disfigured ping pong bat in your hand. In detailed terminology, there’s no tactile feedback or force feedback — information telling your fingers, hands and arms about what something feels like and how heavy it is.
Valkyrie VR, a start-up created by Kourosh Atefipour (now CEO), Ivan Isakov and Oliver Cleveley-Jones, is developing a ‘haptic suit’ to allow users to feel whatever they’re interacting with. The team believes this will ultimately allow for the creation of content such as specific workplace training and ‘touch before you buy’ services, fitting with the company’s mantra that it’s “time to feel virtual reality.”
“The ultimate goal of virtual reality is to fully simulate our perception of life,” the website reads, adding that of all senses we’re only really up to speed on vision and sound. “The third most important sense — touch, is still underdeveloped.”
A demonstration video shows a user opening and closing a door; selecting and unsheathing a sword, which is then used to chop down a wooden beam; arm-curling dumbells of various sizes and punching a swinging punching bag.
The technology is still in an early, wires-all-over-the-place phase, according to reporting by Techcrunch, rocking what the website dubs a “steampunk vibe”.
But the site praises Valkyrie’s decision to look beyond applications for gaming environments and pitch itself for professional uses, where the suit’s somewhat hefty price tag (around $1.5k at the moment) pales in comparison to budgets available to big business.
This follows the ongoing release of similar technology in the haptic space — HoloSuit is a full-body haptic suit, supported by Stanford Professor Jeremy Bailenson; and HaptX supplies haptic gloves for use by FundamentalVR in its Fundamental Surgery simulator. Yet Valkyrie’s is believed to have the edge with its tactile feedback, and force feedback in particular.
The Randall Carlson…