Tactical Haptics to Bring 'Production-Ready' Haptic VR Controllers to GDC 2019

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Tactical Haptics has been working on a unique haptic controller design since its founding in 2013. While we’ve seen a number of prototypes over the years, the company is getting ready to show what it calls a “production-ready” version of its Reactive Grip VR controller, set to debut later this month at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, California.

Reactive Grip is a haptic controller that relies on third-party positional tracking standards such as Oculus Touch, SteamVR tracking, and OptiTrak. To wit, Tactical Haptics recently pivoted from the consumer space to focus on VR location-based entertainment (LBE) and training, so instead of appearing at their normal South Hall booth this year, the company will be taking appointments in a meeting room (N2408) in the North Hall.

What’s special about Reactive Grip though is it provides a sort of touch feedback that doesn’t solely rely on buzzing haptic motors like you find in conventional VR motion controllers. Instead it applies in-hand shear forces to provide some pretty compelling physical feedback to the user, letting you experience things like the stretch of a bow and arrow, the inertia of a swinging ball & chain, or the impact of a sword.

The gif below demonstrates a bit of this using an early prototype, although it really does have to be felt to be believed.

 

Tactical Haptics’ Reactive Grip has been in a constant state of iteration since the company’s founding six years ago. Having already built what the company calls the minimum viable product (MVP) prototype of its haptic controller, as well as a shape-shifting prototype that can reconfigure into several positions using magnetic sockets, the company is now moving one step forward towards full production with its ‘production-ready’ model.

Image courtesy Tactical Haptics

The new controller design is said to also offer similar reconfigurable magnetic sockets to the prototype we saw at last year’s CES, although this will come as a modular add-on in addition to modular third-party tracking attachments for Oculus Touch, Windows VR controllers, Vive Tracker, and OptiTrak.

“The production design is also simpler and more modular, allowing users to configure the controllers with or without magnet sockets (used to form new peripherals on the fly) and to use the controllers in the PC VR ecosystem of their choice.  Add-on brackets enable this modularity,” the company says in a Kickstarter update.

So while our hopes for a consumer version of Reactive Grip have been basically dashed in the near-term with the company’s new business focus, it’s good to see these VR pioneers carrying on to find a home in LBE as the hype around the consumer VR market has cooled off since the initial consumer headset launch in 2016.


We’ll have feet on the ground at GDC 2019 this month, so check back for previews, breaking news, and all things AR/VR to come from the show.



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