Virtual reality as an overall encompassing industry seems to be in flux as companies look for growth potential in lucrative niche activities, however, since no one seems to have nailed down a market, Microsoft Research is throwing its hat in for differentiation.
According to the paper title Haptic Links: Bimanual Haptics for Virtual Reality Using Variable Stiffness Actuation, researchers have found a way manipulate haptic feedback to simulate forces between two individualized sensors.
We present Haptic Links, electro-mechanically actuated physical connections capable of rendering variable stiffness between two commodity handheld virtual reality (VR) controllers. When attached, Haptic Links can dynamically alter the forces perceived between the user’s hands to support the haptic rendering of a variety of two-handed objects and interactions. They can rigidly lock controllers in an arbitrary configuration, constrain specific degrees of freedom or directions of motion, and dynamically set stiffness along a continuous range. We demonstrate and compare three prototype Haptic Links: Chain, Layer-Hinge, and RatchetHinge. We then describe interaction techniques and scenarios leveraging the capabilities of each. Our user evaluation results confirm that users can perceive many two-handed objects or interactions as more realistic with Haptic Links than with typical unlinked VR controllers.
If the language sounds too abstract, the research teams walk through the application of Haptic Links in a quick YouTube video.
While this is strictly a research project at the moment, we should expect to see this (or other similar) expansions on the notion of Virtual Reality featured or unveiled by companies as they continue to develop an answer in search of a question.