Using electrical muscle stimulation can mimic the feeling of lifting objects and touching walls in virtual reality, according to a report from Motherboard.
“Haptic feedback remains one of virtual reality’s greatest challenges—the recent headsets do a decent job of tricking our eyes into believing we’re somewhere else, but that illusion usually shatters when you try to reach out and touch something,” wrote Motherboard’s Leif Johnson. “A team of researchers from Germany’s Hasso-Plattner Institute is trying to change that.”
“For years physical therapists have used electric muscle stimulators to help patients rehabilitate or strengthen their muscles, and similarly, the new device sends little electric shocks to sensors on your arms that stimulate your muscles whenever you press against a wall or try to lift a heavy object in virtual reality,” Johnson explained. “It sounds kinda freaky, but apparently touching of lifting something feels much like the real thing and the shocks don’t even hurt.”
By using electrical muscle stimulation, players will be able to “lift” objects with varying weights and resistance. Punching an in-game enemy could also give you feedback on your fist, while players could similarly feel the impact from someone else’s.
In a demonstration video by the Hasso-Plattner Institute, a player can be seen bouncing back after touching a wall of in-game electrified bars.
The player then interacts with a button by pushing it, before moving down a walled corridor and encountering a projectile, which can also be felt as a hit against the player.
Also demonstrated in the video are a series of more complex buttons and sliders, movable cubes (which are picked up and thrown by the player), and basic punching, which all stimulate certain muscles in the body to recreate the feeling of touch.