Oct 4, 2018 - Technology

Virtual reality you can feel

Ina Fried testing out VR headset

Testing out some VR equipment. Photo: Axios

While virtual reality headsets let you look and move around in a fictional world, VR hasn't yet been able to give users tactile experiences.

Several startups are working on that, and I've had the chance to try out a few over the past several months. One of them is created by Seattle-based HaptX, which officially launched Wednesday.

How it works: Unlike some other approaches that rely on electronic vibrations, HaptX takes a microfluidics-based approach that uses compressed air to help give items heft and texture in addition to basic tactile sense.

  • You can get a sense of the product in this video, but as with most haptic products, you really have to feel it for yourself.
  • In the demo you can feel raindrops hit your glove, pick flowers and, if you are brave, let a spider crawl up your hand. The feeling is reminiscent of the real world, but it's not nearly as precise. Still, it at least adds another sense to the VR mix.

Yes, but: HaptX is aiming for the enterprise market, not consumers. Its technology is priced in the thousands of dollars, affordable to governments and companies but out of the reach for most consumers.

Meanwhile, another effort, HoloSuit, spreads three dozen or more sensors across the body, including a jacket, pants and gloves. It allows for both motion capture and haptic feedback.

  • The 20-person company plans to start selling two developer versions of its product later this year, with prices starting at around $2,000.
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