Imagine a scenario where you go on a safari and pet the lions, but this time, you can feel how fluffy they are!
Sounds exciting, right? Well, we’re not that far away from turning this into reality. Several researchers have come up with various technologies that can effectively simulate the feeling of touch in the virtual world. This also means that we’re inching closer to full immersion in VR and can experience the virtual world like never before.
But how is it possible to feel a human sensation in an artificial environment? Let’s take a look.
Can You Feel Touch In VR?
With virtual reality advancing in several fields, a common question people have is if you can feel touch in VR. To answer in short – yes, you can most definitely feel touch in VR; all you need are some special gloves.
Coming back to basics, we can experience the sense of sight and sound in virtual reality, but the feeling of touch was still not explored enough. This took away from the full immersion VR experience people long to try. We were left with our imagination on what picking up objects in the virtual world would feel like.
However, touch can significantly enhance the experience of virtual reality. VR is a medium that allows us to explore various aspects of life and the universe that would otherwise not be possible in real life. So, touching things like clouds, fishes, animals, etc., would be amusing.
Well, good news – recently, a group of scientists at Cornell University discovered a special glove made with materials that can simulate the feel of touch. This glove is still in the prototype stage, but there has been some impressive progress over the years. The material of the glove acts like a second layer of skin and monitors your movements closely to create the sensation of touch.
Each individual finger of the glove is enveloped by a stretchable light guide that is made from a clear polyurethane core, along with an LED-linked core filled with absorbent dyes.
The dyes begin to light up when movement is detected, and it registers the action your fingers are making. This, in turn, enables the glove to send feedback to the areas where your finger comes into contact with an object.
How To Get Touched In VR?
Now we know getting touched in VR is a possibility. But the gloves tend to limit the sensation of touch to your hands alone. The gloves cannot successfully register any sensation that occurs in any other part of your body.
To combat this issue, a Pennsylvanian University in the United States has created a full-body suit called Teslasuits. These suits cover every single part of your body so you can feel the pressure of bullet hits or a small melee cut. Even minute details, such as a single raindrop hitting the body, can be effectively simulated by this body suit.
The mechanism used to create this bodysuit was that of how our bodies react to different temperatures. This information was then applied to a wearable device called Chemical Hepatic. Once the user places the device on their skin, they immediately start to feel a plethora of sensations from the virtual world, including temperature change, water, breeze, and even numbness.
Getting touched in VR will surely elevate the gaming experience and will provide a feeling like no other.
What Is The Phantom Touch Phenomenon?
Phantom Touch is a virtual reality-related phenomenon where people can interact with objects and other players and feel the sensation of touch without any real-life contact. A Phantom usually refers to a ghost or an entity that is simply not present or visible. It stays true to its name as it feels precisely like a ghost touch that simply did not happen in real life.
Users feel this mainly after spending time with the artificial sensations of touch. For example, imagine you play a game where you get to feel things like a cold breeze and heavy smoke. Once you are done playing and take the VR headset off, you will begin to notice that you still feel the sensations.
This is a way of your brain tricking you into feeling the touch of the VR. But, when you step out of it, it can be hard for your brain to adapt to the change, leaving you to experience what they call a Phantom Touch. Phantom Touch does not only happen in terms of touch but also in other senses such as sight, hearing, smell, taste, etc.
You can also manually train your mind to feel the Phantom Touch, which can enhance the immersive experience of VR. However, it is recommended that you do not try this often.
Can You Feel Pain In VR?
Yes, you can most definitely feel pain in VR if you can feel the sensation of touch. Recent developments have taken place in this regard, mainly from a Japanese company called H2L Technologies.
They focus on designing a wristband that allows the user to feel sensations such as pain and discomfort. It works by stimulating the wearer’s arm muscles electrically.
You can feel various sensations, such as your skin being pinched or the weight of an object on your hands. The developers of this technology believe in making the virtual world as close as possible to the physical world. A team of haptic technologies researchers has created the wristband to help release humans from the constraints of time, space, and body.
Besides H2L, Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta is also currently making vibrating gloves that allow you to feel pain.
Wanting to simulate the feeling of pain doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. Most developers of the technology wish to recreate the feeling of pain you would experience from a puppy jumping on you aggressively or playing fight with children.
Another type of pain simulation is looked upon in the field of video games. This makes the experience more interesting and makes you feel as though you’re fighting real zombies and cruising through real roads.
We have been growing exponentially in terms of technology, and virtual reality is no exception to this growth. In this day and age, we’re closer than ever to experiencing virtual touch, thanks to several researchers and developers. This invention’s potential is enormous, but we need to gather all our patience and let it develop in its own time.