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Haptic Displays in Virtual Reality

During an internship at Enversed, a VR center in Eindhoven, I led a research project that aimed at improving the user experience of one of their most popular games. After an initial assessment of the visual, audio and haptic elements, I realized there were little to none haptic interactions in the game. Therefore, I saw an opportunity to focus the project on investigating how could haptic displays enhance the gaming experience.

 
In the  top , eye-gazing behavior concentrated in the road ahead suggests higher level of trust; while the  bottom  image suggest lower level of trust as driver monitors more often the dashboard, side mirror, and GPS.  Source:  Gold, Körber, Hohenberger, Lechner, & Bengler (2015)
 
 
 

| Research Breakdown

First, I conducted a literature review to gain an understanding of the role of haptic displays in virtual environments. In particular, I examined the inner workings of the human haptic system, the effect of haptic displays on presence, immersion, and performance, as well as the effect of haptic illusions in this medium.

After consolidating the research findings, I applied them to evaluate Snowdown, a multiplayer snow-fight game, in terms of its haptic displays. To do so, I employed a game design framework, together with a systematic approach I developed myself, to assess the core player interactions in terms of visual, audio and haptic displays. This breakdown allowed me to identify which player interactions would benefit from a haptic output display. Finally, I delivered specific design implications based on the technology resources of the company as well as recommendations for what type of haptic technologies they could invest in next to improve the entire gaming experience.

 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
“Working with Gabriela was great for our company. She made a plan and stuck to it. She was open for suggestions, worked well independently, and finished on time. The report was well written, and we’re planning to implement the findings in future versions of our games. It was nice having an intern with a smile and clear goals.”
— Jurgen van der Vlist, CTO at Enversed
 
 

 
 
 

| Project Reflection

Overall, collaborating with the team at Enversed to realize this project was a great learning experience. My personal goals with this research were twofold: 1) to shine a light over the benefits and opportunities of haptic experiences in VR; and 2) to deliver research insights and design implications that actually added value to the company.

VR is an exciting field because it’s just in the midst of growth, which leaves plenty of opportunities for research and testing. Through my work, I have realized how underutilized the sense of touch is when it comes to designing user experiences. In the area of VR, this sense can make a powerful difference if the goal is to create immersive, memorable experiences. It’s an exciting time to test human haptic abilities in virtual environments, understand what information can be effectively conveyed through haptic displays and how can their design be standardized with human factors in mind.