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HaptX Makes Virtual Touch Real

When I first saw this iconic VR full immersion rig, I was intrigued by both the vision and the assumptions behind it. Of course, tens of thousands of developers would have to incorporate this haptic rig via a Software Development Kit (SDK) in order for the product to be viable. It just didn’t make a lot of sense. Then I read Ernest Cline’s seminal novel, Ready Player One and realized that it’s not so far-fetched. Everyone wants to be seamlessly, effortlessly and completely immersed in virtual reality, but there is no consensus on how to address it, or ultimately how important it is.

Full body immersion rig imagined by HaptX of Seattle. The company is working on low-cost haptic gloves, which consumers may see in 2019.

How we interact with the virtual worlds we can now occupy is one of the central questions of VR. The interface will not be the same for many of the things we do now, from the basics of locomotion (teleporting vs. walking) to complex tasks like interacting with a workstation.

Haptic gloves are part of the basic rig in Ready Player One. When the characters play 80s video games inside VR they feel buttons and joysticks. On a practical side, haptic gloves would allow surgeons to feel a scalpel in their hands, and get realistic feedback when using it. For VR flight simulators to supplant the expensive physical cockpits trained to use airline pilots, they’d need to provide accurate feedback from a wide array of devices, including switches and touch screens, to say nothing of gripping the yoke at takeoff and landing.

Jake Rubin, Co-founder, and CEO of HaptX, spent half his life envisioning a full-body haptic system. When researching how to build this ambitious project, he found Dr. Bob Crockett, Chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department at Cal Poly. Rubin cold called Dr. Crockett, and after weeks of digging into one another’s research, they founded HaptX. Since then, the company has raised over $9M in funding and announced its first product: HaptX Gloves.

HaptX glove prototype.

HaptX has decided to focus on haptic gloves because they can be made at a reasonable price, at least for enterprise customers, and there is demand from actual customers who have seen the HaptX prototype. In the next several years, the company expects to reduce the cost to a place where gloves become viable for consumers.

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book Charlie Fink’s Metaverse, a continuously updated, AR-enabled guide to VR & AR, published on January 9, 2018, by Cool Blue Press.

Released on January 9, 2018, by Cool Blue Press.

This post was originally featured on on December 27, 2017

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