Virtual Reality You Can Feel?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Virtual Reality You Can Feel?

It was perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks of virtual reality. While even back in the days of “Dactyl Nightmare”, we could see things coming at us or see us firing upon them, our capacity to feel was limited. Granted, the pistol grip controller in our physical hands helped, but this was a dodge more than anything. However, Dexta Robotics out of China may have the answer in the form of a new kind of exoskeleton known as the Dexmo that may do the job better than anything so far.

The Dexmo comes in two versions: the classic, a breed designed as a controller that can capture hand motion effectively, as well as the F2, a version that also offers a breed of haptic feedback, essentially what virtual reality (VR) has been missing for some time now. While the feedback is somewhat limited—users can basically feel the size of the object that was picked up virtually—it's still a noteworthy step forward. The device in question is currently running a Kickstarter, and those who get in early can get one of these for as little as $65. Reports suggest that the Kickstarter so far is up over $42,000 out of a $200,000 goal, so it's likely to cross that final threshold.

Naturally, this isn't just about VR, but rather about a host of other points. Users might be able to mix music using one of these, or to be able to interact with mechanical devices, offering up a host of functions ranging from microsurgery to bomb disposal to interaction with hazardous materials.  There's also word that it can be put to work controlling smart lighting systems, or other forms of computer interaction. It's not at all hard to see this working in a  “Johnny Mnemonic” style control scheme.

These applications are all very welcome, but not so much what we talk about around here. As a VR tool, it's somewhat limited—and there have certainly been other firms taking on the idea of a VR you can feel just as readily as see—but the fact that it's under development at all is well worth noting. About the only thing missing is the ability to taste it, and that would pretty much conclude the sensorium as we know it and make virtual reality every bit the equivalent of actual reality.

Naturally, it's going to be a good long while before we get to that point. There's plenty yet to do and establishing mechanical interfaces between our senses and simulations is difficult to say the least. How do you generate a taste with electrical impulses? A feeling? Can we ever really do more than approximate such things? Only time will tell just where this all goes, but a device like the Dexmo might well be the start of something great in virtual reality, coupled with devices like the standard PC, the Oculus Rift, and a host of others to improve our alternate realities in a fashion some might have thought impossible even just 20 years ago.

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