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Input Devices

Levitating Haptics Joystick Gives Good Feedback 70

SubComdrTaco writes "A controller developed at Carnegie Mellon University allows computer users to manipulate three-dimensional images and explore virtual environments not only through sight and sound, but by using their sense of touch. It simulates a hand's responses to touch because it relies on a part that floats in a magnetic field rather than on mechanical linkages and cables, according to Ralph L. Hollis, a Carnegie Mellon professor who developed the controller. The controller — like a joystick topped with a block that can be grasped — has just one moving part and rests in a bowl-like structure connected to a computer. Two of the controllers can be used simultaneously to pick up and move virtual objects on a monitor. In a demonstration Tuesday, visitors to Hollis' lab were invited to move an image of a pin across a plate of various textures, causing the controller to bump along ripples, vibrate across fine striations and glide across smooth areas. On one computer, users could "feel" the contours of a virtual rabbit. Hollis said his researchers had built 10 of the devices, six of which were to be sent to other universities across the country and in Canada, and that a new company, Butterfly Haptics, would begin marketing the device in June or July. The controller, which Hollis said will cost "much less" than $50,000, could enable a would-be surgeon to operate on a virtual human organ and sense the texture of tissue or give a designer the feeling of fitting a part into a virtual jet engine, or might also be used to convey the feeling of wind under the wings of unmanned military planes."
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Levitating Haptics Joystick Gives Good Feedback

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  • by OrochimaruVoldemort ( 1248060 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:19AM (#22649726) Journal
    i just hope that it is linux compatible (assuming it will be sold)
  • by PC and Sony Fanboy ( 1248258 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:19AM (#22649740) Journal
    I'm not particularly interested in technology like THIS until it becomes commercially available. And widespread support. It is VERY very interesting, and I want one ... but until I can have one, i'll just sit here and complain.

    Anyways, support for something like this (when it is commercially available) would be very interesting. What happens when it becomes mainstream with the porn industry?
    • by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:51AM (#22650228)
      My visualisation lecturer brought one of these into the lecture last week: []

      I had a go, it was pretty cool. He'd just installed Vista on his laptop and the software wouldn't run at full speed any more (surprise!) so he could only demonstrate touching a sphere of material, but it was good. There was a sphere of molasses, which really did feel gooey, and one of ice, which was slippery. There were others, but I didn't try them.
      • by Darundal ( 891860 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:28PM (#22650820) Journal
        I used one at quakecon, and honestly, I hated it. I honestly don't understand how anyone can describe using this thing as feeling anything. It reacted to surfaces and objects in the demos like you would expect it to react, but it wasn't feeling. It was clunky and awkward, to say the least. It was more like taking a stick and moving it along something. Just figured I would share my experiance with the device.
        • by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:59PM (#22652302)
          But what if the software was a simulation of controlling something with a stick?

          A flight simulator requires pressure feedback to be effective. I use Xplane to practice landings, but only to practice getting the numbers right. The actual flair requires some feedback on how hard you're pushing or pulling the yoke. Getting a proper trim in the simulator is nearly impossible, because you don't know how hard you're pulling or pushing to maintain altitude.

          A surgeon uses tools for the most part. His work is experience through the feel of a knife.

          Working on CAD would be similar to using a pair of pliers to work on a part.
      • by Graham_Hodgson ( 688052 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:29PM (#22654616) Journal
        Meh, I tried one in at a conference 3 years ago. These guys ( were demonstrating moving a device through a large gravity field, through a tub of large rubber balls, a sprung area etc. They then turned the unit around, and demonstrated an inverse pendulum that you could push around - they could alter the damping and springing individually on the fly. It was pretty impressive.
  • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:20AM (#22649760) Journal
    "Levitating Haptics Joystick Gives Good Feedback"

    This has got to be the dirtiest headline Slashdot has ever written.
  • by freebsd-dog ( 1251278 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:21AM (#22649764) Homepage
    but it seems like we are getting closer and closer to making love in virtual reality every day.
  • by devnullkac ( 223246 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:23AM (#22649808) Homepage

    Are you sure this is real? The list of naughty joke start points is too long: Joystick, Gives Good Feedback, topped with a block that can be grasped, virtual human organ, bump along nipples (OK one that was misspelled).

  • by courtarro ( 786894 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:28AM (#22649892) Homepage

    "The controller, which Hollis said will cost "much less" than $50,000..."

    Well gee, that provides a lot of information.

  • Cheap! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Thanshin ( 1188877 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:31AM (#22649936)

    The controller, which Hollis said will cost "much less" than $50,000...
    Great. For a second there I thought I'd have to sell my house to buy the new toy.

    Now I have hopes of only having to sell my car.
  • virtual surgery (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mblase ( 200735 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:33AM (#22649972)
    The controller, which Hollis said will cost "much less" than $50,000, could enable a would-be surgeon to operate on a virtual human organ and sense the texture of tissue

    Let's get a bunch of complaints out of the way right now and point out the obvious: that such virtual surgery would only be an educational tool and would, for obvious reasons, be completely unsuitable as a "telecommuting surgeon" solution.
    • Re:virtual surgery (Score:5, Informative)

      by Telvin_3d ( 855514 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:46AM (#22650154)
      Well, not with the first generation at least. The claim is that the current model is sensitive to motions as small as two microns in all six axis of movement and can provide real time feedback. If someone was going to create a remote surgery setup, which might prove useful in some emergencies and specific situations, I can think of a lot worse interface methods to build it around.

      Now, no you would never want to use something like this in preference to a live surgeon. However, for remote places like the arctic/antarctic stations and other situations where flying a patient out or a surgeon in for some specific emergency just isn't going to happen, well, it's better than nothing.
      • by Dire Bonobo ( 812883 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:43PM (#22658294)

        The claim is that the current model...can provide real time feedback.

        The claim [] is that the current model can provide 75Hz updates, which isn't high enough for haptics -- 1000Hz [] is the standard for a real-time haptic interface.

        It sounds promising, though, especially with regards to the stiffness it can produce.
      • by Maverick4 ( 466604 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @06:09PM (#22669150)
        That's missing the point. The educational aspect IS the cool function. Surgeons currently have to learn as they operate, using cadavers as their only close approximation to the real thing, and moving on to real surgeries to hone their skills. However, dead tissue behaves quite differently. A great deal of surgery skill comes from familiarity with tactile much pressure to apply when, how fast to go, etc. If they are able to simulate the tactile sensations of performing surgery on living tissue effectively with this device, it will be a huge advance in surgical training.

        Wouldn't you rather have a surgeon with his/her tactile sensation and hand/eye coordination skills better honed when he went to operate on you?
    • Re:virtual surgery (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cecille ( 583022 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:52AM (#22650242)
      Why would such a thing be unsuitable? There have already been robotic surgeries done using tools with only video and no haptic feedback at all. I'm just curious why you think this would not be used for a real surgery.
    • by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:55AM (#22650286)
      Having seen a lecture on this subject, I think you're being a bit cynical. I saw some good videos of virtual stuff, and some composite virtual/real stuff (i.e. overlaying colours onto veins etc through some special goggles) so it's only a matter of time before it's all virtual and can be done remotely.
  • by OrochimaruVoldemort ( 1248060 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:39AM (#22650064) Journal
    (but are not limited to) WoW All FPS Platformers Most other MMORPGs some sports games and maybe racing games
  • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:42AM (#22650100)
    Why do I get the feeling that this was not just any bunny []
  • by Hoplite3 ( 671379 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:53AM (#22650260)
    I don't know about surgery, but magnetic feedback is far easier to tune than spring feedback. It'd make a great videogame controller, though it could fall short for the same reason spring-based feedback isn't in current controllers: patents.

    Some medical device company owns a force-feedback patent and sued or threatened all of the original FF joystick makers in the 90's. The only feedback we have now is vibration, which may be exciting for 51% of the population, but seems kinda lame to me. Oh, and isn't there a patent covering it as well? Lame.
  • by RealErmine ( 621439 ) <commerce@wor[ ] ['dho' in gap]> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:55AM (#22650282)

    From the article:

    Haptic technology has uses ranging from remote medical breast checks and exploring distant lands, to recreating the feel of fabrics.

    I think we all know that this is a euphemism for pornography

  • by starglider29a ( 719559 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:01PM (#22650402)
  • by Farmer Tim ( 530755 ) <> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:07PM (#22650482) Journal
    Professor Ralph Hollis now joins Hugh Hefner in being the only men in the world who make a living from feeling up bunnies.
  • More Haptics (Score:3, Informative)

    by imstanny ( 722685 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:24PM (#22650754)
    Half Life 2 has Haptics controller for it (as well as other less popular games) Novint Falcon. I think it's sold at CompUSA, though they went out of busines...

    Also, Immersion technologies make Haptic controllers (BMW contol wheel, XBOX Steering Wheel, Vibration in the PS3 - which, Sony claimed couldn't fit into their controller but it was a patent problem - Immersion sued Sony & won... now the PS3 has vibration). They also make haptic stuff for surgery simulations. Carnegie Melon be jealous...

    • by forceofyoda ( 855030 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:34PM (#22656322)
      I played with the Novint Falcon [] at the GDC two weeks ago. It's a neat concept, but the problem is that you have to constantly hold your hand in midair to use it. It's tiring, and not really useful for anything more than a quick demo. This controller, and controllers like the spaceball [], make a lot more sense as far as being able to relax your arm while you use it.
  • by EB FE ( 1208132 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:28PM (#22650816)

    Haptic technology has uses ranging from remote medical breast checks...
    They shouldn't drop the price much from $50,000. Geeks everywhere will probably pay it to give Internet breast exams.
  • by Schiphol ( 1168667 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:29PM (#22650826)
    That's what I thought when reading about not-too-small, changing magnetic fields beneath your hand. Does anybody know if this would be a real issue?
    • Re:Cancer (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cedric Tsui ( 890887 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:17PM (#22651634)
      Cancer? What is it about magnetic fields you think can cause cancer?
      You know that every time you open your fridge, there's a changing magnetic field beneath your hand.

      In broad terms, the only forms of radiation that can cause cancer are ionizing radiation. That means that individual photons can break a bond between two atoms. The reason this can cause cancer is that you can break a bond within a DNA strand which could be repaired incorrectly by the cell in such a way that it looses control over itself.

      So starting from lowest energy and going up.
      Electric fields and magnetic fields (or RF waves) can't cause cancer.
      Infrared waves (heat) can't cause cancer
      Microwaves (cellphones) can't cause cancer
      Visible light can't cause cancer
      Ultra Violet rays are slightly ionizing, and can cause cancer
      x-rays and gamma rays can cause cancer

      There's an exception to this. If you made a substantial change in an electric or magnetic field in under 10^-16 seconds, then you would emit some UV rays. This isn't something we're capable of doing without some sort of cathode ray tube. (not used in this device)
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:06PM (#22654298)

        Electric fields and magnetic fields (or RF waves) can't cause cancer. Infrared waves (heat) can't cause cancer Microwaves (cellphones) can't cause cancer
        Careful there. Last time I posited this, I got flamed (and modded) into oblivion by a horde of "cell phones cause cancer" bozos. Many of them claim to have undergrad engineering degrees, which appear to confer confidence far in excess of their actual knowledge. They're are worse than the "vaccines cause autism" people, and they're all over /. : )
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:39PM (#22654744)
          Ya know, until your post I was SURE cell phones wouldn't cause cancer. Now you got me wondering ;)
          My brother got Aspergers from vaccines with mercury in them. My mom has extensively studied this stuff ever since he was diagnosed: mailing lists, books, conferences and one of the tidbits she told me was that kids were getting 14 times the legal limit of mercury through vaccines.

          There have been lots of studies that say that being cold does not make it more likely that you will have a cold, but I personally don't know anybody that says that there is no "cold season". The problem is probably that they missed a critical parameter of the tests.
          • by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:57PM (#22656588) Homepage
            Really? So one day he clearly didn't have Aspergers, went and got an injection and woke up the next day with it?

            • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:21PM (#22659114)
              Shhhh, better not tell him this:

              Since 2001, with the exception of some influenza (flu) vaccines, thimerosal is not used as a preservative in routinely recommended childhood vaccines.*

              There is NO mercury in childhood vaccines anymore. Did we cure Autism? No. Did rates even go down a detectable amount? No. Do people who are sad and frustrated when their kid is diagnosed still want something tangible and easy to blame? Yes.

              Life is hard, sometimes it randomly gets a whole lot harder.

      • by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:23PM (#22656912) Homepage
        Stuck your head in a microwave oven lately? Are you telling me that having a good portion of your flesh cooked is not going to increase the risk of cancer?

        • by andy_t_roo ( 912592 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:31PM (#22658204)
          thermal heating from microwaves does not directly cause cancer - cell damage due to localized boiling might - microwaves have a frequency of 1Ghz, - and this device would be varying the force applied in the kilohertz range at most (no idea as to the actual specs though) - at this frequency the energy smaller than the energy range associated with any molecular interactions, resulting in it having no effect on them. (not even heating)

          The only reported effects of these sorts of fields are at powers much greater than what this device can create, and over longer time periods (days) than this device would be in continuous use for.
      • by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <tms AT infamous DOT net> on Thursday March 06, 2008 @05:16PM (#22668366) Homepage

        In broad terms, the only forms of radiation that can cause cancer are ionizing radiation.

        This is often stated, but really the biological effects of non-ionizing EM radiation remain largely unknown - which is why we still have argument about whether cell phones will give you cancer or not.

      • Re:Cancer (Score:2, Funny)

        by bkaul01 ( 619795 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @06:09PM (#22669158)

        Cancer? What is it about magnetic fields you think can cause cancer?
        All cancer occurs on Earth, which has a large magnetic field, therefore magnetic fields cause cancer.

        Or, we could blame everything on gravity. The same reasoning can conveniently be extended to any number of imagined causes. ;)

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06, 2008 @07:09PM (#22669944)
        There are two types of radiation that can cause cancer, along with other bad things in living systems. Ionizing radiation and nuclear radiation. These terms are pretty damn self explanatory if you know some basic science, but I'll explain anyway.

        Ionizing radiation is any radiation that causes an atom to become ionized. This means that the radiation only effects the electron cloud surrounding the nucleus. Electrons may be gained or lost by atoms bombarded with ionizing radiation. Direct exposure of a living organism to ionizing radiation may have adverse effects up to cancer and death. There is no residual radiation after the fact, however. Any substances that are exposed to ionizing radiation are perfectly safe to handle or consume. I repeat: ionizing radiation is only harmful if you are directly exposed to it. This is why it is used to sterilize medical equipment and food products. Irradiated foods will not give you cancer (one of my pet peeves).

        Nuclear radiation is radiation that causes changed to an atom's nucleus. Nuclear radiation is substantially more potent and unlike ionizing radiation, it doesn't just ionize, it can create isotopes. Some of these isotopes may be radioactive, themselves. Either direct exposure to nuclear radiation or exposure to substances exposed to nuclear radiation is gonna be a bad thing. Nuclear radiation is used for power plants and weapons.

        These explanations are neither complete, nor meant to be. My spelling and grammar are terrible and I don't care. Ionizing radiation is not the only form of radiation that will give you cancer. Again, don't be afraid when you hear that something has been irradiated. By law these have been irradiated via ionizing radiation (if you live in the US anyway) and will NOT harm you. Magnets aren't gonna give you cancer either. If they do, you're screwed anyway. Basically everything around you emits a magnetic field. Go live in the middle of nowhere in a log cabin and live off the land if you're that worried. You'll likely live a harder and shorter life, but go for it. This has been a message from your less than local slacker made nutritionist/food scientist.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:38PM (#22650960) Homepage

    The linked video [] is from 1998.

    I've seen several gadgets like this at SIGGRAPH, although not this "maglev" version. There are better haptic input devices, which are more like robot arms in reverse.

    • by jabberingWookie ( 836844 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @03:44PM (#22653976)
      I work in the lab that produced this device and wanted to clarify a few things.

      First, although the device is called a 6 degree of freedom joystick, it is much, much more than that. Essentially, its a a set of coils inside a set of rare-earth magnets. The coils are attached to a bowl, called a flotor, which has a handle at its center. Coils in a magnetic field generate a Lorentz force when a current passes through them, levitating the bowl. You've now got a bowl, floating in a large air gap with no physical connection to anything except through some very fine wires at the base. The position of the bowl can be found using LED's on its outer surface which shine on some optics and sensors.

      Most haptic devices use mechanical linkages to give force feedback. This always involves friction and backlash. The more degrees of freedom you want, the more motors you need, the more linkages, the worse the friction. This device has essentially zero friction, no backlash and can be moved to resolutions on the order of microns. It can follow a commanded sinusoid fast enough to play music. It can produce really stiff surfaces and stops so fast that the bowl reverberates. Most users think they're hitting something real or we're generating collision sounds but the device is actually just stopping so fast.

      The linked video is indeed from 1998 and is of an early prototype. Better video is available even on YouTube [] and more about this project and others can be found at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute website [].

      I should also point out that this device is intended for research, especially research involving small, precise motions, making it ideal for virtual surgical applications and anywhere where you might need fine motor control. As a gaming input/output its definitely cool but you'd need to be pretty well off to afford one right now.

    • by awtbfb ( 586638 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @05:27PM (#22655424)
      Having had the opportunity to try this device, I can tell you it is far superior to other systems for the purpose it was built for: precision and resolution.
  • by F-3582 ( 996772 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:16PM (#22651624)
    Anyone want to bet how long it takes Immersion to sue them?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:33PM (#22651916)
    What I see this being used for is manipulating nano-scale tools, in vr-enhanced nanoscopy labs, rather than your X-box 360...
  • Y)OU FAIL IT (Score:-1, Redundant)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @02:13PM (#22652544)
    as TheZ premiere don't want to feel
  • Fuck3r (Score:-1, Troll)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @03:24PM (#22653682)
    of the' aBove
  • by rpiquepa ( 644694 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @03:25PM (#22653696) Homepage
    Unlike current haptic systems, this new device doesn't use gloves or robotic arms. With this haptic interface, which will take a big chunk of your desk, you will be able to perceive textures and feel hard contacts. But don't expect to use it before several years. Please find more details at ZDNet [].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:25PM (#22654566)
    What does the Novell corporation have to do with this article? Or did the tagger think he was tagging it as "novel?"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:57PM (#22657344)
    I love how slashdot's editing works. If a 10-year-old story gets new coverage, slashdot is happy to dump it into circulation. This device was first publicly announced in 1998. See the video.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"