Stretchable Transducers for Kinesthetic Interactions in Virtual
Benjamin Mac Murray
Figure 1: The tools of soft robotics enable immersive kinesthetic experiences in augmented and virtual reality while remaining
safe to use. Left: Using uidic elastomer actuators (FEAs), we demonstrate a soft skin that can provide force feedback to a
motion tracked controller integrated with the VR Funhouse application. Middle and Right: A soft controller uses the variable
compliance of soft structures to simulate dierent textures and materials.
•Human-centered computing →Haptic devices
Human Computer Interaction, Haptics, Virtual Reality
ACM Reference format:
Robert Shepherd, Bryan Peele, Benjamin Mac Murray, Jose Barreiros, Omer
Shapira, Josef Spjut, and David Luebke. 2017. Stretchable Transducers for
Kinesthetic Interactions in Virtual Reality. In Proceedings of SIGGRAPH
’17 Emerging Technologies, Los Angeles, CA, USA, July 30 - August 03, 2017,
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SIGGRAPH ’17 Emerging Technologies, July 30 - August 03, 2017, Los Angeles, CA, USA
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ACM ISBN 978-1-4503-5012-9/17/07.
Commercial virtual reality devices such as the Oculus Rift and HTC
Vive enable experience designers to emulate a number of human
sensory inputs with computer simulations. Commercial experiences
have demonstrated plausibly realistic audiovisual sensory input,
but somatosensory feedback has been more limited in scope. Most
successful attempts in providing feedback to the human Kinesthetic
system were considered power-demanding, expensive and poten-
tially harmful to users, therefore somatosensory input has largely
been addressed by vibration-based devices, like Linear Resonant
Actuators and Eccentric Rotating Mass actuators, aimed at stimu-
lating receptors near the surface of the skin. This method is widely
accepted as a proxy in lieu of resisting to muscle tension, but it is
not considered a path to realistic input.
Stemming from advances in materials science, the eld of soft
robotics constructs stretchable actuators, sensors and displays [Li
2016; Mac Murray et al
2015; Zhao et al
2016] using structures
and materials that can be deformed at forces exerted by human
muscles. To date, most demonstrations of soft robotics have focused
on mobile robots, compliant grippers, and biomedical applications.
Here we present the use of these technologies for kinesthetic feed-
back in virtual reality. The materials used to build these devices
SIGGRAPH ’17 Emerging Technologies, July 30 - August 03, 2017, Los Angeles, CA, USA R. Shepherd et al.
(e.g silicon) have mechanical properties similar to that of human
tissue and are well-suited for applications that require direct and
prolonged contact with human skin. Additionally, these systems
are well-suited for commercial applications due to the low material
cost and compatibility with scalable manufacturing techniques.
We provide two key demonstrations to highlight the use of uidic
elastomer actuators to provide haptic feedback. These demos allow
users to progress through a series of brief experiences where the
hand-held controller adjusts its form and behavior to match that of
the virtual object used in each demo. The objects held in the demo
include a goo gun, pistol and mallet.
First, we have developed a thin ( 3mm) pneumatic skin to cover
an HTC Vive controller. This pneumatic skin has 12 individually
inatable chambers placed in contact points similar to those of
objects used in the game play of NVIDIA’s VR Funhouse [NVIDIA
2016]. By sending impulses to the user based on actions in the
game, the ow of gas into the chambers enhases the gameplay of
VR Funhouse. For instance, pneumatic chambers along the bottom
of the controller inate to simulate the recoil of a revolver or the
chambers undulate to simulate uid moving through a water gun.
Our second demonstration is a rubber foam controller that changes
stiness and texture to represent a variety of objects from NVIDIA’s
VR Funhouse. The controller is composed of co-mingled blocks of
foam that we selectively pressurize to provide force feedback upon
gripping by the user. The combinations of stiening dierent foam
modules can represent a large number of Funhouse objects. For
instance, the absence of pressurized blocks can simulate the palm
area of a boxing glove, while a highly pressurized controller (all
blocks pressurized) can mimic the sti wooden handle of a mallet.
Shuo Li, Bryan N Peele, Chris M Larson, Huichan Zhao, and Robert F Shepherd. 2016.
A Stretchable Multicolor Display and Touch Interface Using Photopatterning and
Transfer Printing. Advanced Materials 28, 44 (2016), 9770–9775.
Benjamin C Mac Murray, Xintong An, Sanlin S Robinson, Ilse M van Meerbeek, Kevin W
O’Brien, Huichan Zhao, and Robert F Shepherd. 2015. Poroelastic foams for simple
fabrication of complex soft robots. Advanced Materials 27, 41 (2015), 6334–6340.
NVIDIA. 2016. NVIDIA VR Funhouse. http://store.steampowered.com/app/468700/.
(2016). Accessed: 2017-03-20.
Huichan Zhao, Kevin O’Brien, Shuo Li, and Robert F Shepherd. 2016. Optoelectronically
innervated soft prosthetic hand via stretchable optical waveguides. Science Robotics