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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.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

Standardized testing becomes another pandemic victim

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

1 hour ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

2 hours ago - Health

Africa CDC: Vaccines likely won't be available until Q2 of 2021

Africa CDC director Dr. John Nkengasong. Photo: Mohammed Abdu Abdulbaqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Africa may have to wait until the second quarter of 2021 to roll out vaccines, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available,” Nkengasong said.

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