Frebble - New haptic controller, live on Kickstarter

sutekiBsutekiB Posts: 1,069
edited July 2014 in Motion Controllers
I just backed a very cute haptic controller! :)
Frebble is an accessory designed to allow you to hold hands with someone at a distance: when you squeeze it, the other person feels your squeeze. The shape holds you; you hold the shape


I've been known to shoot a few zombies, and other virtual menaces it's true. I have no idea what my digital body count is up to now, but I don't believe I'm so bloodthirsty as it would seem to indicate. Every warrior should look after his softer side too. That's why I'm very interested to see how social interaction will be affected by virtual reality.

There was a time not so long ago, when the key events in our lives would be restricted to a small geographical area. Since the birth of the internet, the rapid exchange of information has led to many changes, including how we meet people and maintain long distance relationships.

Yes, the world is a lot smaller now, but not in a way that is satisfactory or even close to natural. Take a typical online chat for instance. Entirely devoid of context, often without any visual cues or tactile feedback. It may be functional, but you could hardly engineer a more sterile way to communicate your feelings.

Introduce virtual reality, and the difference could be amazing. Imagine meeting your partner in cyberspace, walking on a beach, visiting an arcade, museum, show, or some other attraction. You can speak, look around, walk side by side on your Omnis, but something's missing - you can't hold hands. It's a subtle thing, but its absence will be missed.

With two main control inputs (move & look) offloaded to the Omni and your choice of HMD, your hands are now under much less of a burden. You could have a controller in each, with one dedicated to interacting with the environment, and one left to a single, simple action - squeezing your partner's hand as they walk beside you.

The Frebble (even the name is cute) will let you do this. Its two pressure sensors detect when you squeeze the ergonomically shaped device, and a signal is sent to your partner's corresponding unit, activating its 'squeeze bar' which is integrated into the handle, as well as a vibration motor. While it can never take the place of being with a loved one, it's an ingenious way of bringing two people just a little closer together.

I'm a backer, and I'm hoping to see this integrated into future, social VR applications so couples around the world will find it easier to maintain their bond, however far apart they may be.
Community Manager at Virtuix


  • Hmmm... I wonder if it replicates a firm or a soft hand shake :smile: If your virtual handshake is soft during a virtual interview, are you considered a less desirable candidate?
  • RaoulRaoul Posts: 125
    It's certainly a neat idea, it does seem like something that could be a feature of a haptic VR controller in the future. But on it's own the VR applications seem kind of limited.

    Next month I'm attending a VR meetup in Amsterdam and a few people are looking to invite the Frebble team. So maybe I'll get to try out a prototype.
  • sutekiBsutekiB Posts: 1,069
    @Dev_Guy_Robert I don't know if the pressure is analogue, but that would be handy (sorry).

    @Raoul Sure it might not be a gamer's main controller, more likely something you'd use specifically for social VR. The Kickstarter video focusses mainly on parents and kids but friends and long distance couples would also benefit. Cosmonauts and Martian colonists might also use it to connect across the vastness of space (with a bit of lag).

    It could be a comfort to people in hospital, or prison - places where people often feel isolated and dehumanised.

    If I were making a social VR app, I would definitely integrate the Frebble. You'd want to see your hands holding, but still be able to move your own freely. To accomplish this, I'd have each person see something different. So assuming I have a tracker like STEM or PrioVR on my wrist and I reach my hand out to theirs, they entwine automatically. If I move my hand, their hand/arm contorts accordingly; but they will only see my hand/arm moving in response to their own motion. Furthermore, if I move away, their arm extends until fully outstretched. I would have the foot tracking on the Omni stop at this point to let the user/s know they are moving out of range of each other. If one continues to move then the connection is broken, so you'd have to reach out to each other again. Only your hand moves from your point of view, so if they manage to touch your hand first (which is hanging by your side from their POV remember) then their hand would suddenly move, track, and latch on to yours.

    If there's an SDK, you could perhaps do more with it - use the pressure sensors to pick up and release objects. Imagine a VR version of Uncharted 2 - feeling the NPCs gripping your hand to avoid a calamitous fall would be pretty intense right?

    This is kinda going against the whole ethos of Frebble, but it could lend itself to some other interesting non-social VR applications; dating sims being the obvious one.
    Community Manager at Virtuix
  • RaoulRaoul Posts: 125
    The pressure is indeed analogue but limited for safety reasons. Although the resolution is currently limited, this should be solved for the final product. Check out this video where the creator talks a bit more about it:

    The applications you mention certainly seem like a good fit for the Frebble as a stand alone device. And it seems very likely Frebble will release some sort of SDK that would allow you to generate the input data from software rather then another Frebble device.

    But I would love to see this type of feedback (pivoting plate on the back of your thumb) integrated with the sliding plates from the Reactive Grip. These two combined with motion tracking could provide a great VR haptic controller for something like an Uncharted VR edition.While still allowing for all the social applications you mentioned.

    On a side note, the lag between earth and mars at the speed of light is anywhere between 3 and 22 minutes. So any real time communications will be always be tricky. But who needs actual space when you can explore the depths of the galaxy in VR. :smiley:

    There is actually an interesting theory that states the universe shows no signs of extraterrestrial live because any civilization that has the technology for space travel, is likely to also have the technology for VR.
  • sutekiBsutekiB Posts: 1,069
    Pity, I had a feeling they might limit the pressure. Hope there's a way to deactivate that. You're right, a Frebble/Reactive Grip hybrid would be awesome. You'd probably have to angle the Frebble element so it covers more of the back of the hand rather than the groove between your thumb and fingers, as otherwise you might have an inconsistent contact when using the analogue stick and buttons. Of course we're talking about an expensive controller now - totally badass, but expensive! Need to get Will in here to tell us how feasible this is. :)

    Yeah, that's a good theory. Aliens are probably too busy playing MMOs to look for us! As for contact, I'm sure Earth has received alien transmissions in the past, and will again - but even though the universe must be teeming with life at any given point, the phase where a civilization is able and willing to emit signals is so brief that it's unlikely to coincide with another civilisation's ability and willingness to receive and respond.

    Let me know what you think of the Frebble if you try it @Raoul!
    Community Manager at Virtuix
  • sutekiBsutekiB Posts: 1,069
    UPDATE: Frebble Kickstarter re-launched! Very attainable goal.
    Check it out here:
    Community Manager at Virtuix
  • @sutekib I missed the first KickStarter but will definitely follow close on this one.
  • sutekiBsutekiB Posts: 1,069
    Featured the Frebble in my latest video - Explore VR Episode 7!

    Community Manager at Virtuix
  • OmnionOmnion Posts: 4
    @SutekiB What is the reactive grip you showed in this video? I'm gonna get a delta six but I want to check this out too.
  • OmnionOmnion Posts: 4
    @sutekiB oh man I feel like an idiot. I get it now.
  • Sorry - Frebble still sounds like breakfast cereal to me :smile:
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