May 18, 2019 – Tactical Haptics has announced that it will be opening pre-orders for the company’s new Reactive Grip haptic controller enterprise development kit on their website on Wednesday May 29. According to the company, the dev kit pre-orders are targeted toward enterprise training, location-based entertainment (LBE), and R&D customers. Pricing is anticipated to range from USD $650 for a single enterprise dev kit controller to USD $1,500 for a pair of ‘fully-loaded’ enterprise dev kit controllers.
The opening of enterprise dev kit pre-orders will directly precede the debut of a new collaboration with VR game maker Reality Smash at the Augmented World Expo (AWE) in Santa Clara, USA, on May 30-31. The company will showcase their Reactive Grip controllers integrated with Reality Smash’s VR LBE climbing game, Sweet Escape, in the AWE ‘Playground’ expo area.
The company’s advanced touch feedback works by mimicking the friction and shear forces that would be felt in the real world when holding an object or touching a surface. Tactical Haptics’ touch feedback system works by tracking the movements of the player’s hand (e.g., using a Vive Tracker, Oculus Touch, Windows MR, Vicon, or OptiTrack tracking system) and actuating small sliding plates on the surface of the grip-region of the controller. These plates are able to create haptic illusions of elasticity, inertia, and impacts, and ultimately recreate the friction and shear forces that are naturally experienced when holding an actual object such as a baseball bat, slingshot, or fishing rod. The company’s dev kit will allow developers to incorporate these haptic interactions into their own VR applications as well as to develop their own haptic effects.
Compared to the company’s simplified controller design first revealed in 2018, Tactical Haptics states that its dev kit is now more modular and manufacturable for increased customizability at reduced expense. The design update was supported, in part, by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The modular kit allows for customization and configuration with accessory brackets to suit developers’ tracking and interaction needs. The foundation of the kit is the ‘Core Controller’, which comprises a handle with two actuated shear plates and multiple mount-points for attaching accessory brackets that allow for further customization. The Core Controller also includes an IMU (inertial measurement unit) that provides 3-axis rotational tracking data and a replaceable and rechargeable battery, with a battery life of approximately 2 hours, according to the company. The Core Controller also incorporates standard VR game controller inputs.
Tactical Haptics has tracker brackets for the Vive Tracker, which allow the dev kit to be used in combination with the Valve Index, HTC Vive, or other Steam VR headsets (e.g., Pimax, StarVR). The company also has a tracker bracket that allows Oculus Touch controllers to slide securely into a controller mount to provide tracking when the dev kit is used with the Oculus Rift. So far, only out-side-in Oculus tracker brackets have been designed and tested, but the company has stated that it also plans to offer tracker brackets for inside-out tracking using newer Touch controllers (e.g., for use with the Rift S). Similarly, there are plans to offer a tracker bracket to attach a Windows Mixed Reality controller for providing tracking when used with a Windows MR headset.
As well as multiple accessory brackets for tracking, the Core Controller also supports the addition of Multi-Pose Magnet Sockets, an innovation that the company debuted at CES 2018. Multi-Pose Magnet Sockets allow for on-the-fly controller reconfiguration using magnets. These magnet sockets provide connect-points on each of the controllers to form semi-rigid connections between the controllers. This allows users to transform their VR interactions by acting out their intended actions with their hands – keeping them immersed in a VR experience.
In addition to gaming, the company states that its touch feedback technology also has uses that can be applied to augmented reality, telerobotic interfaces for manufacturing and maintenance, industrial and construction operator interfaces, toys, pilot training interfaces, automotive navigation and safety systems, computer-aided design (CAD), education, laparoscopic or telerobotic surgery, rehabilitation, swing training, or as an assistive guide to the visually impaired.
Tactical Haptics is expecting to ship the first batch of dev kit pre-orders in Q4 of 2019. The kits will ship with demo builds of the company’s tech demos and an SDK with plugins for both the Unity and Unreal game engines, with customers in the USA being the first to receive orders. The company also stated that it is currently taking on new partnerships in location-based entertainment and enterprise training as it brings its new dev kit into production.
Video credit: Tactical Haptics/YouTube