Haptic feedback has been the subject of research for decades and has been reported to significantly improve task performance as well as the perceived presence in a virtual environment (VE). There has been previous work on haptic feedback with a robotic arm for walking-in-place VEs. However, free-hand general-purpose haptic interaction in large-scale walkable virtual reality (VR) with robots has not been subject of research before, which is essential for design interaction and feedback in AEC. Real-time interaction in virtual environments requires considerably different approaches compared to what is known from previous research in robotics.
The goal is to develop a mobile, remotely controlled, safe robot platform that provides haptic feedback of elastic materials in large walkable VR, so that users can interact with larger surfaces that react to physical pressure. The major scientific contributions are (1) the establishment of a new platform that supports safe large-scale haptic interaction, (2) research and development of novel algorithms, safety concepts and interaction metaphors for human-robot interaction in immersive VEs and (3) near real-time mechanical simulation of elastic structural response for haptic interaction with 3D virtual structural elements. In a range of future VR applications such as architectural design (e.g., stage design SP2), industrial simulation, training, entertainment and rehabilitation, large areas and haptic interaction are of crucial importance.