BraveX: Incorporating Touch with Virtual Reality

In 1957, the very first form of Virtual Reality (VR) was introduced to the world. Recently, the field has exploded with new technologies created to enhance user experience with VR. BraveX, founded by William Kodama (Engr ’21), Dhyey Parikh (Engr ’21), Pranav Sridhar (Engr ’21), and Evan Magnusson (Engr ‘21), is developing a wearable, exoskeleton device that is the first to incorporate the sense of touch into virtual reality.

BraveX simulates real-life physical interactions using a biomechanically restrictive virtual exoskeleton. A user can wear their device with any VR headset and feel resistance when they come in contact with an object during the game. Placing your hand on a desk in reality vs virtual reality is different because your hand stops on a real table and falls through in a simulated environment. BraveX goes a long way to solve this deficiency in current technology to mimic the real world. They are studying how a person interacts with objects, considering factors like forces, barriers, and resistance in their exoskeleton device.

The group initially designed a product for simulation-based programs that could be used to train people in a controlled environment. For example, hospitals could utilize the technology when preparing for surgery. However, the team decided to go-to-market with a product in the gaming industry. “We spoke with one of our business advisors, and he was a great help in figuring out which market to target initially,” Dhyey explains. “This involved doing some research and figuring out which had the lowest barriers to entry. That’s the easiest way to get in and once we’re in we can expand from there.” So, for now, the team is focusing on helping current gamers and game developers create better content in VR.

“It’s fun, it’s cool, and it aligns with all of our interests,” William details the motivation of his team. “It’s something real that we can expand and take even beyond just this company. Whether we fail or succeed, both will be positives for us, and we’re having a good time with it.” 

Over the next few weeks at the i.Lab, the BraveX team is creating a user prototype and pursuing patents for their technology.

The first time I tried VR was about a year ago. I put on the headset, and after a couple of minutes, I experienced simulation sickness. This disembodiment is very common and is caused by feeling like you are moving when your body is not. However, with BraveX’s technology, your body is actually moving how your brain thinks it should. You are interacting with something that looks like it is really there, which helps to decrease that disconnect between virtual reality and reality. I’d be very interested in trying this technology to see if it is indeed an improvement over my previously negative experience with simulation sickness.