Wireless haptic system design for a multiplayer VR game scenario

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master's Programme in New Media
75 + 17
Tactile sensation plays a crucial role in helping people intensely experience their surroundings in the real world. Thus, it is incorporated, in the form of haptic feedback, into a range of devices from smartwatches and tablets to handwriting-training devices and aviation vests. In addition, research has indicated potential associations between haptic feedback and Virtual Reality (VR). Consequently, many companies have gradually introduced this feature to VR as tactile alerts. However, most high-density vibration studies have only focused on the human torso rather than hands. Moreover, most existing commercial VR gloves support vibrotactile reactions with only five vibration motors attached to fingertip positions, resulting in virtual touch loss. In contrast, adding more actuators to the gloves can increase tactile resolution and enhance users’ levels of immersion in VR. This thesis investigates the effect of touch sensations produced with high-density vibration patterns on users’ sense of immersion in VR. This study followed the Research through Design (RtD) approach to design and prototyped a pair of affordable haptic gloves with 18 vibratory motors. In addition, the research systematically labeled these motors by converting their locations into a two-dimensional matrix for convenient manipulation and future extension. Next, eight vibration modes were implemented and remotely controlled in real time via a custom Representational State Transfer (REST) Application Programming Interface (API) with parameters such as oscillating intensity, duration, and the specific motor to trigger. Furthermore, the study documented the design process of four versions of the gloves and compared their wearability in terms of modularization for quick replacement and hygiene standards, starting from the creation with Through-Hole Technology (THT) electronic components to Surface-Mount Technology (SMT) materials soldered on soft and hard Printed Circuit Board (PCB). Questionnaire assessments of VR immersion improved by the vibration patterns and the wearability of the haptic gloves were collected from 20 adults after a user test. The results showed that the haptic gloves were comfortable to wear during long-lasting VR sessions because of reduced stiffness, and the vibrotactile patterns truly enhanced users’ sense of VR immersion in some circumstances. On the other hand, the test findings highlighted the shortage of integration between the vibrotactile modes and the VR visuals. A possible future application of the haptic gloves could be stroke-patient rehabilitation with custom vibration patterns. Finally, the research illustrates technical difficulties in self-fabrication regarding size minimization of the glove control box and hardware debugging and provides practical suggestions for further improvements.
Niinimäki, Matti
Thesis advisor
Xiao, Yu
wearable electronics, e-textiles, internet of things, vibrotactile pattern design, haptic gloves, REST API, body perception, embodiment
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