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Microsoft's new haptic VR tech blurs the lines between realities

May 9, 2016 | By Chris Kerr

May 9, 2016 | By Chris Kerr
More: VR, Console/PC, Video

Microsoft researchers have lifted the lid on new haptic tech that lets people interact with virtual reality worlds using their hands - instead of a wand or similar tool - to give them a tangible sense of presence inside digital spaces. 

As shown in the video above, researchers experimenting in Minecraft have devised a way to give players complete hands-on control over multiple virtual building blocks, using just one real world cube.

The tech is currently being put through its paces by the Microsoft team, who found that by warping the world around users they could "hack" player perceptions to fool them into believing they were interacting with multiple blocks.

Unlike Microsoft's augmented reality HoloLens headset, which gives wearers the ability to interact with holograms laid over real-world spaces, the company's passive haptic tech lets players enage directly with objects in fully-realised virtual reality environments.

"We have created a framework for repurposing passive haptics, called haptic retargeting, that leverages the dominance of vision when our senses conflict. With haptic retargeting, a single physical prop can provide passive haptics for multiple virtual objects," explained the Microsoft team.

"We introduce three approaches for dynamically aligning physical and virtual objects: world manipulation, body manipulation and a hybrid technique which combines both world and body manipulation. 

"Our study results indicate that all our haptic retargeting techniques improve the sense of presence when compared to typical wand-based 3D control of virtual objects."

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