Microsoft showcases VR controller that adapts to let you ‘touch’ items in games

[This very short DesignTAXI story describes a prototype controller designed to enhance presence (note the last sentence). The original includes more images and a three-minute Microsoft Research video (also available via YouTube) and for more information see the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) 2021 paper and 7:51 minute video presentation. –Matthew]

Microsoft Showcases VR Controller That Adapts To Let You ‘Touch’ Items In Games

By Ell Ko
13 October 2021

Microsoft Research has just developed an innovative new virtual reality (VR) controller that changes shape according to how it’s being held and used.

Described as a “hand-mounted 360º shape display for grasping in virtual reality,” the ‘X-Rings’ controller consists of four expandable rings stacked atop one another. Each has a collection of sensors capable of simulating grasping objects of various shapes and even feeding back to the system to “deform” objects in the virtual space.

Capacitive sensors sit on the ring plates, while the motors have current sensors. This combination allows for the controller to detect when plates are or aren’t being touched. Alongside this, the gadget will also be able to measure the force with which it’s being gripped.

This could lead to further developments to users’ interactions, such as glass “breaking” when the controller is squeezed too hard, or a VR experience of molding clay.

To test this product’s effectiveness, the developing team had some users try to guess what virtual objects they were “holding” solely based on gripping the controller. Despite not having any visual clues, except for images of the objects projected out of reach, an 80% success rate was recorded.

Unfortunately, because the ‘X-Rings’ controller is still in the prototype stage, there’s no saying if it will see further development toward market release. However, it’s a clear indication that the company is very much interested in making virtual reality more akin to “reality” than it is “virtual.”

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