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Adding haptics to objects in Virtual Reality with FES

We are seeing a number of virtual reality applications in rehabilitation as ideas from the gaming world spill over into rehab. But how about technology from rehab finding it's way into gaming?

A paper by Lopes et al from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam Germany have been exploring how to add haptics to walls and other heavy objects in virtual worlds by using FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation).  When you think about it, a "sense of feeling" is normally missing from these virtual worlds.  This research uses a Hasomed RehaStim1 unit to provide FES to a user's shoulders, arm and wrist muscles to provide a deeper sense of reality in a virtual world. When a user tries to push a virtual object, the control system generates FES impulses to create a counter force that pulls the user's arm backwards delivering that sense of pushing against an object just as we would in the physical world.  In this application the RehaStim unit is controlled directly by the researchers software application which makes calls to the stimulator. They keep the current level constant and vary the pulse width to give the most comfortable experience for each user.  By varying the software the researchers create the feeling of pushing against a wall or picking up a box for example.

A video showing this in action is here