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College Students Invent Haptic VR Balloons

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College students have developed new haptic feedback for virtual reality (VR) gaming using inflatable robot balloons. This innovative technology adds a new layer of immersion to VR experiences.

Haptic technology is when your phone slightly vibrates to tell you information. It has been used in gaming for years. Controllers like the PS5’s DualSense have enhanced this tech, simulating sensations such as falling rain or the tightness of a bowstring. With VR gaming’s rise, haptics are becoming more prominent.

Students from the University of Calgary in Canada and Tohoku University in Japan have introduced “InflatableBots,” inflatable robots that change shape to provide haptic feedback. These robots can inflate from 15 to 200 inches at a speed of 4 inches per second, creating multiple touchpoints for the user.

Ryota Gomi, a student, showcased these InflatableBots in a video. The robots have omnidirectional movement and fan-based inflatable structures, making them versatile and interactive. They can replicate various objects and environments, such as the steps of a staircase, the hit of a drum, or even the heads of a pack of dogs.

Unlike traditional static haptic devices, InflatableBots are mobile and scalable. This innovation was presented at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Although they are not available for purchase, this technology hints at exciting future developments in VR gaming.

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