Sony is seeking to realize a future where we turn people’s imaginations into reality by using haptics, which is designed to directly stimulate the human sensations.
Haptics is a technology that relates to the sense of touch, which is among the five senses of human beings (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell).
The R&D Center is researching and developing this haptics technology as a new technological field for creating physical sensations, in addition to Sony’s other technologies for visual (sight) and audio (hearing).
R&D efforts are underway on vibrotactile, pressure, force, and thermal sensations, etc.
The R&D Center is experimenting with a number of prototypes to achieve a high definition and full-body coverage while at the same time conducting user evaluations and collaborating with business entities.
A Pursuit of Highly Realistic Haptics
“How realistic can haptic expressions get?” “What kinds of new experience can highly realistic haptic expressions deliver?” To answer these questions, the R&D Center started technology development for wide-frequency, wide dynamic range vibrotactile feedback.
Focusing on the fact that sound and vibration are similar in nature, the R&D Center advanced its research through the use of Sony’s audio technology. Various data creation methods, including recording and playback of vibration data, were tested to gradually improve reproducibility. These efforts were directed not only to pursuing realistic presentations but also to enhance user experience by taking advantage of virtual expressions.
The Haptic Ball is a prototype built by putting all these research results together. The Haptic Ball can reproduce a highly realistic texture of plastic, metal, or rubber. Despite its simple mechanism, the technology demonstrates how significantly haptics can enhance the impressiveness of an experience.
Delivering Ultimate Full-Body Immersive Experiences
The Haptic Vest has been developed to give vibrotactile feedback to the user’s body, tricking the user into feeling as if what he or she sees is real. The vest can provide a highly realistic reproduction of sensations that are rarely experienced in the real world, such as being attacked by enemies, blown by a bomb blast, or poured water on.
One of the enablers for the Haptic Vest is haptic super-resolution technology. Even when the number of vibrotactile devices is few, this technology can give the user the illusion that the position of vibration moves continuously, enabling natural sensory presentation.
The Haptic Vest has been used in a variety of scenes. Examples include movie promotion events where visitors enjoy an attraction that gives them a full-body immersive experience of the world depicted by the movie being promoted, as well as virtual-reality music events where the audience feel the roar of the music over their bodies.
Haptic Experiences with No Need to
“Can’t we create a haptic presentation device that provides an event participant with a haptic experience without the need to wear it?” The research and development of the Haptic Floor was started to ease such a burden on participants.
Until then, direct physical stimuli to the body had been indispensable for haptic presentation, making it necessary for participants to wear a device or hold one in their hands. Then came the idea of embedding devices beneath the floor and vibrating the floor itself, which led to the invention of a system whereby all that participants need to do is enter the venue of the event.
Although it is solely based on the vibrotactile feedback from the floor, the system delivers delicate and highly immersive sensation to the participant’s entire body, by leveraging the signal processing technology and know-how accumulated in the past. The Haptic Floor has been used for many different purposes, including creating a vivid, realistic rendering of a dinosaur projected on a large display screen and offering an immersive experience at a movie promotion event for visitors to feel as if they are in a scene from the movie.
Interactive Floor-type Haptics
The R&D Center is also researching and developing a technology that makes the floor feel like a pool of water or sandy beach utilising interactivity of the Haptic Floor. The soles of human feet can feel changes in texture more sensitively that we imagine.
To provide diverse types of vibrotactile feedback as a person walks, the system features a technology that detects subtle changes in stepping with a small number of sensors, enabling experiences that transcend space.
Developing New Haptics
The R&D Center is working to develop a pneumatic (air pressure-based) haptic presentation technique as a new haptics technology. The pneumatic presentation technique can keep a constant pressure presented or present slow changes in pressure, thus enabling the more granular presentation of the sense of vibration as well.
The system structure is simple, compact, and lightweight and can provide various types of haptic feedback. The R&D Center is developing a technological application that reproduces differences in hardness or softness by using multiple air chambers in combination. These techniques allow the presentation of the textures of diverse objects that are difficult to reproduce with conventional technology, as well as the presentation of a slow rhythm like the breathing rhythm of an animal.
The R&D Center is engaged in a comprehensive range of development activities from the development of devices and control algorithms to psychophysical evaluations. R&D efforts are underway to put various presentation structures and device types into practical use.
Variable Center of Gravity Controller
The prototype of the VR controllers features a moving part structure with a high weight ratio compared to the entire device. This produces dynamic shifting of the center of gravity through compact devices. By regulating the center of gravity precisely, the prototype has the capability to present an enhanced sense of an object’s length, as well as its strength of impact or as well as fine vibration in VR experiences.
Each device is compact and simple in shape, and the two controllers can be linked together to present feelings of objects with more complex shapes.