We humans, are able to estimate the shape of an object by feeling their mass properties while holding them in our hands without needing to see what they are. This sense doesn’t translate well in the VR world, as most controllers offer a static design, with most feedback being vibrational with no options to sense an objects weight or perceived shape. Now some engineers from the University of Tokyo have designed a VR controller that allows you to “feel” various objects in a virtual space by changing its shape.
“We built a computational perception model using a data-driven approach from the collected data pairs of mass properties and perceived shapes. This enables Transcalibur to easily and effectively provide convincing shape perception based on complex illusory effects.”
The Transcalibur VR controller was designed using an angular mechanism (a worm gear drive and a pair of worm wheels) to rotate two independent arms made from acrylic plate and plastic gear tracks. Each arm is equipped with a weight mechanism (also consisting of a worm gear and wheel) that house lead bearings, which travel along the arms to adjust mass for the virtual object rendering.
The controller renders the VR shape using computational perception models obtained by data collection of targeted forms (i.e.: a sword, shield, or crossbow). That data is fitted to a regression model, which predicts the optimal shape, and configures the controller accordingly. It’s currently unknown if the Transcalibur will ever become available on the market, but here’s to wishful thinking that it might.