“The audiovisual aspects of VR have come a long way in recent years, so adding a sense of touch is the next step,” says Andreas Schweinberger, a researcher at Technische Universität Munchen in Germany. “We know that the more senses that can be used, the more interaction, the greater the sense of presence. And a stronger sense of presence means the experience is more immersive and realistic.”
Schweinberger led a team from nine universities and research institutes in developing technology to make VR objects and characters touchable. With funding from the EU in the Immersence project, they developed innovative haptic and multi-modal interfaces, new signal processing techniques and a pioneering method to generate VR objects from real-world objects in real time.
The latter technology, developed at the Computer Vision Laboratory of Swiss project partner ETH Zürich, uses a 3D scanner and advanced modelling system to create a virtual representation of a real object, such as a cup, box or, in one experiment, a green fluffy toy frog. The 3D digital representation of the object can then be transmitted to someone at a remote location, who, by wearing VR goggles and touching a haptic interface, can move, prod and poke it.
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