For some pet owners, being away from their furry companions for an extended period of time can be heartbreaking. Visiting a beloved pet on a video call just isn’t the same, so researchers at National Taiwan University have developed a VR controller that allows the user to feel the simulated fur while stroking a virtual animal.
Created at the University’s Interactive Graphics (and Multimedia) Lab, in collaboration with National Chengchi University of Taiwan, “HairTouch” was presented at the 2021 Computer-Human Interaction Conference this week, and it’s another attempt at bridge the gap between the real world and virtual reality to make simulated experiences more authentic by engaging more than just a user’s sense of sight and sound. A VR controller, whose movements can be tracked by a virtual reality headset so that a user’s hand movements are reflected in the simulation, has been augmented with an elaborate contraption that uses a few tufts of faux fur than a finger can smell.
The HairTouch controller not only exhibits faux fur when a user touches a furry animal in VR, but it is also able to simulate the feel of different types of fur and other surfaces, manipulating those hairs as they appear. expand and contract. By controlling the length of the pile, faux fur can be made softer and more pliable when fully extended, or stiffer and coarser when only a small amount of fiber is sticking.
To accurately simulate a pet, whose fur coat does not stick straight out like the fibers of a paintbrush do, the faux fur of the HairTouch controller can also be folded side to side, depending movements of the user’s hand and fingers. simulation and orientation of the virtual animal. Petting your dog 3,000 miles away might not seem like the best use of hundreds of dollars in VR gear (unless you’re a truly dedicated dog owner), but the controller can also be used to simulate the feeling of being. ‘other textures. , including fabrics, so the research could also be a welcome upgrade to virtual shopping – a promised use of technology that hasn’t really gone beyond the concept stage.
Don’t expect to see the HairTouch available as an official Oculus accessory anytime soon (or even ever), as this is currently only a research project and the prototype isn’t quite as stylish as the VR equipment currently available to consumers. But it’s a smart idea that could find its way into other hardware and other applications, helping virtual reality blur the lines with reality.