This article started off as an introduction to Wireality, a virtual reality haptic feedback device for the hand that allows you to "feel" things in VR. It is a great research project by a student that has many great projects and experiences under her belt already.
As I researched the Wireality project, this article slowly shifted towards featuring the author of the project, student Cathy Fang.
Do not let the term student give you any misgivings as I’m talking about the kind of student that attends "Carnegie Mellon University pursuing Mechanical Engineering and Human Computer Interaction double major."
Her projects page ranges from using Adobe Illustrator and After Effects on data visualization to product design and prototyping to name just a few. One project of note to digital artists is her P.O.N.D. project, a sort of living painting that showcases her grandparent’s Chinese drawings and calligraphy. A great little piece that really hits a home run.
P.O.N.D. Visual Project
She also has a Magic Leap internship in her past. This is a big plus even if the company itself is on hard times. She was a system engineering intern in prototyping, software development, and robotics. There was also a mention of the Unity game engine.
What does she do in her spare time? Research a cure for cancer?
Oh yeah… Wireality… the VR thing… I almost forgot.
As a longtime VR user, researcher, and authoring more than a few whitepapers on the subject I have always been turned off by the lack of haptic feedback and better yet, proper haptic feedback. Not being able to touch things won’t kill the experience, but we all know touch feedback is important.
When I first saw this device I thought it was A: expensive-looking with the shoulder device and B: downright strange in execution and appearance (which prototypes tend to be). Then I saw the price tag of mass manufacturing and started to realize this was indeed a way forward. Maybe not so much in its present form but you never know what the masses may adopt.
Looking at it from strictly a "know nothing about it viewpoint" it does look rather silly and cool at the same time and far more realistic in deployment than VR treadmills and platforms. When it comes down to it… it’s a lot more than just rubber bands and wires.
Wireality Haptic VR Feedback
In its totality, the system allows for the real hand to feel what the VR eye sees. It would allow the user to feel along a wall or grip a railing, press a button, pull a slider, or lever. All of those little things that make the experience more immersive… more real… which is what VR is all about for some of us.
One thing I learned early in the consumer VR arena was how the Vive wands seem to morph into a pistol for FPS games as it felt like one. Much more so than the Touch or WMR controllers and it added to the experience for me. Feel is important.
We’ve had VR tech sight and sound improvements all along but now we can look forward to more cost-effective means of haptic feedback to drop us further down the rabbit hole of VR engagement and immersion.
Projects like Wireality along with powerhouse innovators and researchers like Cathy Fang will make our VR experience fuller and richer by demonstrating the capability and price point that meets real-world needs and expectations.
And who knows… with this kind of intelligence and drive, she might cure cancer as a side hustle.
You can download the Wireality paper here for details.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.