What you need to know
- Microsoft Research showed off a new VR controller prototype called X-Rings, which can adjust its radius to mimic the shape of virtual objects.
- Microsoft says its studies show that users can identify objects 80% of the time because of the controller's tactile feel.
- The current model is 3D printed and operating in SteamVR, using Vive Trackers and a Vive Pro 2 headset.
Microsoft has been fairly hands-off on the idea of VR on Xbox, but has supported the idea on Windows PCs in some capacity for years. The best Windows Mixed Reality headsets are largely just a way to play SteamVR games these days, but it seems that Microsoft is still experimenting on VR solutions to work with SteamVR.
Case in point, UploadVR spotted a new video from Microsoft Research that details a brand new transforming controller built upon existing SteamVR standards. This concept, dubbed X-Rings, can adjust its grip size to just about any object you'd look at in VR, from a pear-shaped pot to the hilt of a sword, or even the neck of a bottle.
The controller is made up of four rows of plates arranged in a ring formation around part of the circumference of the controller's grip. These plates can adjust in a 2cm range at an impressive 100ms speed, meaning the adjustment happens in just a few rendered frames. Each of these plates has a capacitive touch sensor so, like the Valve Index controller, it can detect the minutiae of finger movements in VR.
Each plate is also pressure-sensitive, a la the PS5's DualSense controller, and can be used to squeeze objects in a game. Microsoft demonstrated squeezing a pot until it smashed in the video below, which would add quite a bit of immersion factor to an experience. In fact, Microsoft's research showed that users could successfully match an object's shape and feel with a visual representation 80% of the time.
The 3D printed controller sits atop a Vive Tracker so it can be tracked in 3D space, and users in the video are using an HTC Vive Pro 2 headset. Microsoft isn't saying if this prototype will eventually make its way into a consumer-grade product, but the fact that the company is working on such unique, innovative solutions certainly suggests they're actively considering such a possibility in the future.