Virtual reality is getting more immersive and stimulating by the day, but if you try to feel something in VR, your hand will just pass right through the air. A new Japanese startup wants to change that with a VR armband that tricks your brain into thinking its touching onscreen objects
Created by the Tokyo-based H2L, the UnlimitedHand looks, and is worn, almost like an iPhone exercise arm band, sans iPhone. But inside this armband is a haptic sensor, as well as an array of tiny, multi-channel electronic muscle stimulators (EMS). The haptic sensor can measure how you are moving your arm, and move it accordingly within a VR world; meanwhile, the EMS array sends a series of finely tuned electronic pulses coursing through your muscles, allowing you to feel low-granular sensations like resistance, or even discomfort.
According to H2L, the UnlimitedHand can be used to simulate bodily encounters, like the sensation of touching, pinching, stroking, or grabbing onto something in a virtual world. It can also simulate pain, although one imagines without too much fidelity, since H2L calls it “occasions of being inflicted within damage within games.” Either way, if you’re looking forward to some VR Counter-Strike, UnlimitedHand can make the experience of being shot more immersive. (Yay?)
The best part about the UnlimitedHand, though, is that from a developer’s perspective, it looks easy to integrate. To support the UnlimitedHand with your VR title all you need to do is install a plug-in for Unity, a 3-D engine very widely used in VR and 3-D games. That should help make the UnlimitedHand appealing to developers, unlike other proprietary VR peripherals.
Currently on Kickstarter, the UnlimitedHand’s downside seems to be cost: they start at $188. That’s fairly expensive, considering the Oculus Rift headset is believed to cost $350 when it’s released, computer non-withstanding. So before you touch the world of VR, prepare yourself for the sensation of a burning wallet.