A mouth haptics innovation by Carnegie Mellon University researchers could see people get a real kissing sensation in the metaverse.
The device, which uses ultrasound on the lips could make VR kissing feel a little more genuine, among other metaverse applications that could elevate the degree of realism in the experiences.
Virtual reality and augmented reality headsets and controllers won’t be the only “hard” components of immersive experiences and the future metaverse. To make these experiences feel more real and convincing, haptic content is also required that enables users to feel the sensations in the virtual reality environments.
There are numerous players involved in the development of haptics technologies. While many of these are still at a research stage, some of the devices have been productized. Haptic devices are intriguing innovations in the way they trigger the different feelings and sensations in the body. The new mouth haptics device is no different.
Vivian Shen from Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute showcased the VR haptics device at a human-computer interface (ACM CHI) conference. The device consists of a thin and compact beamforming array of ultrasonic transducers that can be attached at the bottom of a virtual reality headset and is wired directly to the headset.
These transducers focus their beams on the wearer’s mouth they trigger different kinds of effects such as swipes, point impulses, or persistent vibrations. A VR user feels these ultrasonic effects on their lips, tongue or teeth. The researchers say that these mouth haptic sensations can bring out new and interesting virtual reality experiences, including kissing sensations.
The researchers say that these sensations can be felt on the face or used to simulate the sensation of a virtual liquid like water or coffee on the VR user’s lips. This mouth haptics technology can even be used to simulate the feeling of “smoking” a virtual cigarette. Beyond the entertainment value, such an application could potentially have medical benefits whereby it can be used in virtual cessation therapies that help people quit smoking. The research team also stated that the mouth haptics innovation can be used to simulate the feeling of headwinds or rain whipping against your face in virtual reality. Such haptic simulations could radically improve the quality of immersion in VR environments.
The System Gives Considerable Enhancement in Immersion
The researchers write that mouth haptics is the second most important tactile sensitivity after our fingertips and therefore, has the potential to deliver very fine-grained haptic effects to users.
The researchers tested their mouth haptics research work using a number of test subjects who confirmed its immersion-enhancing effect. This is probably the first such haptic device in existence. Most of the other haptic research and innovation have focused on hands, skin, or feet.
The researchers say that the ultrasound system in the mouth haptics device is fully integrated with the virtual reality headset and users won’t have to wear any extra accessories. This is a crucial and convenient feature, especially if this haptic product is to go into practical use. The device could be integrated by virtual reality manufacturers on the bottom section of their headsets to enhance the haptic experience and overall immersion.
However, there are still question marks regarding the device’s viability. Some of the sticking points include the price-performance ratio, the extra weight it adds to the headset, or the issue of software standardization for the mouth haptic effects. At the end of the day, a haptics device will only be useful if it is supported by development studios.
The researchers’ paper on their research titled “Mouth Haptics in VR using a Headset Ultrasound Phased Array” was awarded as the best paper at the ACM CHI. The researchers include Vivian Shen, Chris Harrison, and Craig Shultz. The conference is beginning today and ending on May 5th during which additional details about the haptic device will be presented.
- April 29, 2022