The sense of touch is crucial to understand the environment around us, and virtual reality is no exception. Despite the growing importance of VR and AR nowadays in different industries, the sense of touch is still one of the least explored and used senses compared to sight and hearing. Currently, companies specializing in haptics are continuously developing new ways to bridge the gap between the current technologies in virtual reality and immersive experiences in which the user can not only see and hear but also feel different sensations related to each interaction.
The H-Reality project objective is to revolutionize the way users interact with VR applications by building a “mixed-haptics” interface. In collaboration with Ultraleap, University of Birmingham, University of Delft, and CNRS (INRIA)). The development of “Mixed-haptics” involves the combination of two different technologies that provide haptic feedback solutions: mid-air haptics by Ultraleap and contact-haptics by Actronika. The first one uses a network of ultrasound transducers providing touchless haptic feedback by modulating the pressure of the air in the proximity of our fingers.The second one, offered by Actronika, a french start-up specialized in high-definition haptic solutions, emphasizes on the use of a vibrotactile actuator to transmit the vibrations directly to the skin to provide haptic feedback.
Actronika’s contribution focuses mainly on the development of a wearable contact-haptic device. The challenge lies in the fact that while wearing a device your skin is already in contact with a material which could cause a bias in the haptic feedback perceived. For example, if you wear haptic gloves, the actuators are not the only object in contact with the skin, but the fabric rubbing constantly against it with every movement causing to break the tactile illusion wanted with the haptic feedback only.
As a solution, Actronika proposed to use a self-adhesive interface based on hydrogel materials that then stick directly to the skin. The goal was to take advantage of this material’s similarities to the skin’s mechanical properties to be able to drive the haptic feedback without any signal distortion.