The first time I tried a Tactical Haptics virtual reality controller was at GDC 2016. I wasn’t expecting much. The idea of believable haptics in VR seemed like something we wouldn’t be getting for a long time. From the moment that controller was in my hand, however, I knew I’d made a miscalculation. Impressive VR haptics are already on their way and could be in your living room in 2018.
I recently had the chance to speak with William Provancher, the president of Tactical Haptics, on the floor at SVVR. I asked him outright when customers might be able to purchase a set of TH controllers for themselves. According to Provancher “we were initially targeting holiday of this year but it’s become clear we aren’t going to make that. It’s possible we could release in 2018. We also might want to wait until the holiday season.”
Provancher also said his company will begin sending out the first round of developer kits to a very small (single digit) number of early testers. From there the rollout plan is to release more dev kits, around a thousand, and finally push a commercial release.
As we chatted I was observing the latest, most advanced prototype of the TH control system to date. Previously, only one controller at a time could contain all the haptic hardware this studio is packing in to its devices. Now, however, both your hands can get the full experience. This has led to new sensation possibilities like tensile resistance (think pulling a strong piece of taffy with both hands).
The TH controllers are now also using Vive Trackers for tracking instead of strapping a full Vive controller like they were at last year’s GDC.
According to Provancher, the basic components of the TH controllers are largely the same as what I saw a year ago. The focus lately has been getting both controllers ready to go and perfecting Unity and Unreal Engine integrations. With these integrations, developers building VR games could start to take advantage of the TH controllers.
Haptic feedback has been relegated mostly to basic vibrations in this first generation of high-end, commercial VR. The TH system, on the other hand, is able to replicate a myriad of sensations and various forms of resistance.
Provancher did not say what price TH controllers would sell for.