A deeper immersion in VR with Buzz

The winners are in for Neosensory’s second developer contest. Our judges were thrilled with the dozens of inventive entries that leveraged Buzz to create devices ranging from infrared sensors to echolocation devices. In this ongoing series, we’ll be showcasing these submissions. To see all winners, click here.

“The sixth sense” is often used to describe a kind of supernatural instinct in addition to the five regular human senses: touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. In reality, there are many more senses humans possess.

One of them is especially important to how we move: Proprioception, the sense of knowing where your body is in space. Try closing your eyes– you still know exactly where your hands are, even though you don’t see them.

Steven Schrembeck entered Neosensory’s second developers contest with the hopes of bringing proprioception to the space of virtual reality.

“Our bodies use a number of clues to generate this intuitive sense, but many of those inputs are missing in VR,” Steven writes.

Steven Schrembeck expects VR to become an important part of social internactions.

The Puppeteer helps deepen immersion in VR

He foresees VR becoming a common way to meet people virtually for entertainment, work and other purposes. To allow deeper immersion, Steven developed a device called Puppeteer using Neosensory Buzz and the Ultraleap Leap Motion hand tracker. A software library connects and encodes live hand tracking data which is then piped to Buzz.

The Buzz wristband is a haptic device fitted with four vibrating motors. The hand-tracking data sent to Buzz is turned into vibrational patterns unique to each hand gesture.

Neosensory Buzz is a haptic device featuring four vibrating motors.
Neosensory Buzz is a haptic device featuring four vibrating motors.

“When you put on a VR headset, it means we can give you an intuitive sense of where your hands are (though we could do this for any body part, Puppeteer is focused on hands initially) — even when they aren’t in view,” he says. “It’s a concept I’m calling synthetic proprioception.”

To achieve a truly intuitive sense of synthetic proprioception, Steven recommends fixing the hand tracker to your head. He admits the Puppeteer’s first iteration is a bit clunky, but could have real-life applications in addition to VR down the road.

Real-life and virtual applications

“There are potential applications for people with naturally poor proprioception, which might manifest as being exceptionally clumsy or having inaccurate motor control when not staring at one’s hands,” he writes. “It’s obviously applicable to those with prosthetic appendages as well.”

But Puppeteer’s potential doesn’t stop there. Steven envisions giving humans the ability to sense avatar limbs when your digital body doesn’t match your physical body.

Steven Schrembeck demonstrates the Puppeteer, a device allowing deeper immersion in VR.
The Puppeteer is built using Neosensory Buzz, a Leap Motion Controller and a software library.

“You might have crab claws, or a dozen spidery fingers, or even four arms and a tail. What would it be like to intuitively know where your tail is, in the same way that you know where your hands are now?” he asks.

Another use could be instructional videos. Instructions on how to move your limbs and hands could be sent as a sense, making learning how to repair a car, embroidery and many other things intuitive.

While Steven doesn’t think the time for such a sophisticated device isn’t quite here yet, he’s excited to continue learning.

“Now’s the time to experiment and understand what is possible.”

Have an idea for your own project? Apply to Neosensory’s third developer contest here.