Tactical Haptics is set to show off their new and improved brand of touch-feedback motion controllers at this years the 2014 Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, California. Originally shown off a year ago at GDC 2013, the company has since announced that the controller will be compatible with the Oculus Rift. Over the last year, Tactical Haptics claims to have made “great strides” in improving their product design.
Tactical Haptics, like Valve and Oculus VR, see virtual reality as their immediate goal in gaming technology, giving players the sense of presence that ultimate immersion gives. It’s all well and good pouring money into state-of-the-art sights and sounds, but we haven’t really seen an improvement to our sense of touch in the last decade; at best, most of us have vibrating controllers and rumble features; at worst, we just have sweaty handsets.
Put simply, Reactive Grip works by mimicking the friction and forces that we feel by holding an object. The controller first tracks the movements of the player’s hand, and then responds by actuating small sliding plates on the surface of the controller to provide the sensation that what you’re doing on the screen is what you’re doing with your hands. This is difficult for some to visualize, but basically, imagine you’re swinging a sword in Skyrim, and you can feel the impact through the leather of the hilt. Imagine you’ve just shot your enemy in Titanfall, and you feel the recoil of the gun in your hands. The applications of this technology even extend as far as making the controller feel like a fishing rod when you’re bored and gathering in Monster Hunter. The possibilities are potentially endless.
I say ‘endless’ because as we saw with Microsoft’s Kinect, gaming technology is not just for gamers. Just as NASA technology has found its way into our homes, game technology has a wealth of untapped potential; South Korea are famously using the Kinect sensor on their northern borders right now, and the device has even found a use in bomb disposal by the military. Tactical Haptics’ initial focus may be “commercializing the use of Reactive Grip touch feedback in the fields of virtual reality, augmented reality, and video games”, but the future applications could also extend as far as navigation aids for the blind, minimally invasive surgery, and even upper limb rehabilitation.
If you are lucky enough to be in San Francisco from March 19-21, you can experience this new technology before it hits the shops. Visit booth #335 in the south expo hall to experience it for yourself.