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Its name speaks for itself: HapticPuppet was developed by a team from Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany, in collaboration with a researcher from the University of Toronto. This drone is designed to provide haptic feedback in any direction to the body part it is attached to. So it can be very useful in physiotherapy, or in the field of virtual and augmented reality.
Haptic feedback devices are designed to provide users with tactile feedback and kinesthetic perception; they are particularly used to enhance realism and immersion in virtual reality environments, or to guide visually impaired people. Robotic actuators that are generally used to provide haptic feedback in the case of simple interactions however offer limited flexibility and spatial resolution.
This is why the researchers came up with the idea of designing a new kinesthetic interface with force feedback in the form of a drone: it is capable of exerting forces in all directions on the human body, using a tie attached to one or another part. of the body (fingers, hands, wrists). Several drones can even be used simultaneously, turning the user into a real puppet.
Activate a whole body
According to its designers, this drone offers three advantages over existing devices: 1) it allows users to move freely in space, without force feedback when inactive; 2) allows rapid three-dimensional repositioning to avoid collisions and ensure rapid adaptation to new contexts; 3) can generate directional forces along complex trajectories in the air.
It is envisaged that the user will be provided with one or more connection points, at the level of the body parts required in the interaction; the drone can be connected to these attachment points using polyamide or nylon connections (or any other material depending on the needs of the interaction). This type of approach has already been used in virtual reality, but was limited in hand. So far, no drone-based system has been developed to operate an entire body.
The drone developed by Martin Feick and his two colleagues can be attached to the user’s fingers, wrists, arms and ankles, but their approach doesn’t stop there. ” We also envision attachment points that could attach to users’ chests, heads, or legs “, they specify. Each attachment point consists of three elements: a base, a one-way bearing and a strike to connect the thread.
The drone, barely ten centimeters long, is equipped with 4 small 4500 KV motors; its flight controller is based on Betaflight software. As part of the experiments conducted by Feick and his collaborators, the drone was equipped with retroreflective markers that allowed its position and orientation to be monitored closely, within a space of about 60 m.3watched by a dozen cameras.
A distant person who becomes more real than ever
In the first simple use case, the drone was used to press a button in augmented reality. The device was also implemented in a virtual reality environment, for foot-level interaction (the user virtually hit a ball). ” HapticPuppet can give purely virtual objects and environment a tangible “physical” form. In this way, it can improve interactions and therefore provide a more realistic, intuitive and compelling augmented reality experience. “, summarizes the team.
HapticPuppet allows users to perform physical exercises with static or dynamic resistance changes. One of the main advantages of this approach over resistance bands traditionally used for rehabilitation is that only one piece of equipment is needed for a wide range of exercises. The designers add that the airflow created by the drone’s propellers can also be used to cool the person during exercise.
Finally, the researchers also managed to physically connect two distant people: the local user senses the movements of the other person, which allows them to synchronize their gestures. This type of use could be interesting for practicing golf or tennis with an expert at a distance, they suggest. Using virtual and augmented reality, it is even possible to imagine the presence of an avatar that simulates the presence of a distant person.
A major challenge remains: accurately positioning the drones in 3D space, which means eliminating any oscillation or drift effect. The researchers also point out that the noise and airflow from drones can be very annoying when they don’t correspond to the simulated interaction. To circumvent this problem, they plan to use bladeless drones among other things.