May 6th, 2021—
Virtual reality (VR) technology has improved dramatically in recent years and there are now a number of VR headsets on the market that provide high-quality visual immersion. But VR systems still struggle to stimulate our other senses. When you can’t feel the virtual objects that you can see, the immersion falls apart. That’s why an international team of researchers has developed GuideBand, which is an arm-mounted contraption that physically guides players within VR.
This device looks a bit like an external fixation apparatus for securing broken bones. It straps onto the user’s arm and has three motors controlled by an Arduino Mega via TB6612FNG motor drivers. The first motor moves the device’s gantry radially around the user’s arm. The second motor adjusts the angle of attack, offset perpendicularly from the forearm. The third motor acts as a winch and pulls a cable attached to a strap on the user’s arm.
The unique layout of GuideBand lets it impart the feeling of pulling onto the user’s forearm, like a parent tugging their child through a grocery store. That guidance could correspond directly to action in the virtual world, such as an NPC (Non-Player Character) pulling the player out of the way of danger. Or it can provide more subtle direction, like a game tutorial demonstrating how the player should move to interact with a virtual object.
As with many other VR haptic feedback systems, GuideBand is highly experimental and we don’t expect to see it on the market anytime soon. But it is still an interesting solution to a specific problem with virtual reality.
You can read the team’s published paper here.