Currently in virtual reality you can stimulate two senses, sight and sound. Our goal was to bring a third sense, touch, into the realm of VR at a relatively low cost. The result was Third Sense, a Virtual Reality Haptic Feedback Vest.
Right now in VR/games you can interact with the environment, but the environment can not interact with players which is a massive barrier to immersion. Third Sense solves this by being a platform upon which developers can create meaningful environments that immerse players like never before.
What it does
Third Sense is a haptic feedback vest that stimulates real world interactions within VR. Third Sense is a platform allowing game developers and software designers to have environments that interact with the players. This increases immersion and allows for truly immersive experiences.
How we built it
The feedback in the vest is powered by 16 vibration motors, an Arduino Mega, and a PWM breakout board which allow for different vibration levels per motor. While the vest itself is built off commercial motorcycle armor, used as a quick mounting solution since it provided a basic frame for mounting the electronics and motors.
The VR headset we used was the Oculus Rift DK2 powered by the Unity Engine. Unity was used as our game engine and integration with the hardware was done through a serial port in C# with a stateless RPC interface to the Arduino Mega. This C# library is extendable to other unity projects/games as a drag and drop class.
In order to determine the position of each limb of the player for collision calculations the Microsoft Kinect was used. This allowed us to know which points on a player’s body to stimulate upon contact from an in game object. This allowed for a high level of immersion since we accurately knew where each limb would be in the game and how it would interact with the games environment.
Challenges we ran into
The biggest challenge was getting the Kinect to interact properly with the Oculus Rift. Both systems have their own space references, so getting them to cooperate was rather tricky.
We are proud of finishing the project and having a working demo. Both the hardware and software components are able to communicate effectively to create an heightened interactive experience. This project was ambitious, bringing in multiple different experimental technologies and custom hardware, which is always a tricky combination.
What's next for Third Sense
Third Sense is right now just an upper body solution, but we would love to extend our project to also include the lower half of the body for an even better experience. We would also like to try and integrate temperature and more powerful motors into the vest in the future.
If you are still at Hack the North, please feel free to find us and ask for a demo! Thanks for having us!