Microsoft Research’s haptic retargeting

At ACM CHI 2016, the premiere conference on human-computer interaction, Microsoft will present research advances that could vastly improve user interaction in a number of ways and contribute to the company’s ambition to deliver more personal computing experiences. The conference, which takes place May 7 to 12 in San Jose, California, offers a glimpse into the near-future, when we will be able to do things like use mobile devices in new ways and more easily navigate through virtual environments.

Advances in virtual reality have thus far mainly been in the realm of optics, rendering and audio technologies. But improving haptics — the sense of touch — remained elusive until now.

The key objective in virtual reality is establishing a sense of presence. It’s easy to suspend disbelief if the environment looks real, but when you reach out to touch a virtual object and your hand goes through it the illusion is shattered. And the interaction itself changes the virtual scene, requiring the whole environment to be redrawn or rebuilt.

A new framework called haptic retargeting essentially “hacks” human perception and leverages the dominance of vision when our senses conflict. This allows for the development of much more complex virtual environments that can have many more virtual objects with which to interact.

Andy Wilson, a principal researcher at Microsoft, said the long-term implications of this research will be limited only to the imagination of designers and developers.

The research is detailed in Haptic Retargeting: Dynamic Repurposing of Passive Haptics for Enhanced Virtual Reality Experiences and was developed in collaboration with the University of Southern California and the University of Waterloo.

Source: Microsoft Research