William Provancher is the founder of Tactical Haptics, which produces the Reactive Grip controller. The Reactive Grip controller simulates force feedback haptics through the two components of the kinesthetic (muscle forces) feedback as well as the tactile (surface frictional forces).
William explains the genesis of his project, and some technical details for how it works. He also talks about why he’s on a quest to bring his academic research to a wider audience, despite the fact that a number of investors are telling him that he”s too early. He admits that he’s more of an academic than a businessman, but he’s been able to live in both worlds by choosing the right framing to create devices for different types of perceptual research.
He also talks about how at the IEEE VR conference, Henry Fuchs identified haptics as the next big problem to solve with VR. William was able to get some recognition for his work by winning the best demo at the IEEE VR conference.
He also talks about the upcoming SDK for the Reactive Grip where you will be able to translate the physics engine data from Unity into haptic feedback, as well as a number of canned interactions, and any combination of mass, spring and damper.
William is very candid about what did and did not work with his unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign, but is very determined to stay the course and help bring this technology to the world.
As far as the future of VR, William wonders how long the collegial and collaborative nature of the VR community will remain once the consumer market starts to take shape.
Reddit discussion here.
- 0:00 – Intro & Tactical Haptics Reactive Grip controller mimics the friction or sheer forces that you’d feel when you’re grasping onto an object
- 0:33 – How are you creating this Haptic force reaction? Sliding plates can represent frictional forces where it mimics force feedback.
- 1:15 – Force feedback is any external forces applied to you, which has two components. Kinesthetic component forces that are received through the muscles, and the tactile component felt by the hand. You provide 1/2 of the kinesthetic & the tactile forces are mimicked.
- 2:08 – In VR, there’s body tracking & head tracking visual component, and haptics being the key components. Matching your expectations in VR is what makes makes it more real.
- 3:03 – How did you get started with Haptics? What’s driving you now? Doing research for 15 years. It worked so well, and it became a quest to bring it into the world. And it’s simple enough that it could just work. Early user testing for what people want from haptic feedback in immersive games to add to the experience to the game.
- 4:45 – What are some of the interactions that you have with your SDK. Two modes of interaction of support direct calculations of physical forces that will come out of your game engine starting with Unity & eventually UE4. Scripts that simulating a gunshot type of motion.
- 6:24 – What are the canned interactions that you’ll be providing? Have a set of demos that can portray the sense of contact and resistance after contact, portray sense of inertia, kickback torque, and having elastic, multi-dimensional deformable objects. In addition, there’s all sorts of combinations of mass, spring and damper.
- 7:55 – What are you using for positional tracking – Using Razor Hydra at the moment. Others know how to do tracking, and so they will use solutions from others. Their goal is provide more compelling feedback that’s more sophisticated than rumble, but cheaper than force feedback.
- 8:23 – Are there any safety concerns with haptic feedback injuring people? Not sure, but usually people who complain about that were gripping the controller to tightly.
- 10:10 – What lessons did you learn from your Kickstarter that was not successful.
- 12:26 – Will you doing another crowdfunding efforts or planning any other fundraising efforts?
- 13:28 – The Razor Hydra seemed to come a few years too early before the demand from VR was there. Is there enough of a viable consumer market to support this type of haptic feedback. Conditional venture capital interest and doubts about viability, and then changing perspectives post-Facebook acquisition. We’ll e interested if others are interested.
- 15:07 – Talk about winning the demo competition at IEEE VR with the Reactive Grip controller. Henry Fuchs’ keynote about what Facebook acquisition that was the best thing to ever happen to VR. It’s a hard problem, and their solution it’s not perfect, but it’s really good. Haptics is the next big challenge for VR, and the research academic community sees the value.
- 17:27 – How have you dealt with the culture clash between an academic mindset versus the more enterprising start-up mindset. Make devices and study perception with it. The next things that need done aren’t always framed in an academic way, but they can be. It’s all a matter of framing, and he’s been able to find the intersection between framing what you want to do with what the research needs are. Needs to pass the KISS principle to be viable in the consumer market
- 19:26 – What do you see in the future of VR? Wondering to see how much of the collegial collaboration vibe will remain once the market forces start to divide people when it comes down to going after a limited pool of resources.
Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio