Continuously improving hardware increases the realism in Virtual Reality (VR). However, the immersion is often disturbed due to the lack of appropriate haptic feedback when interacting with virtual objects. Existing approaches like haptic input devices or exoskeletons cannot fully solve this problem, as the provided feedback is either too simple or user movement is restricted. Simulators can provide suitable haptic feedback but they cannot be used for different applications. There are special haptic feedback systems that do not suffer most of these constraints. They use varying methods, e.g. physical props, to simulate the sensation during the interaction with an object. The main drawback of existing feedback systems is that the required physical space increases with larger virtual worlds. This thesis describes the design and the implementation of an immersive VR system that provides haptic feedback by using a robotic arm to position physical props around the user. As a basis for the system, a framework was developed that combines various out-of-the-box VR components with a custom-built robotic arm. A locomotion platform enables virtual worlds of unlimited size on a constant physical space. The system provides an easy to use Unity3D framework wrapping the required software libraries and a robotics system. This framework builds the basis for creating new VR applications with robotic haptic feedback. The framework allows to use only a subset of the supported VR devices without changing the application and also enables later modifications on the robotic arm. The performed technical evaluation and user study prove the functional capability of the system and indicate positive effects of haptic feedback on the VR experience. Safety guidelines for the use of the systems are specified to minimize the risk when using the system. The user study proves that these guidelines are satisfactory.
C. Gatterer: "Virtual Reality zum Anfassen - VR-System mit robotergestütztem haptischem Feedback"; Supervisor: H. Kaufmann, E. Vonach; Institut für Softwaretechnik und Interaktive Systeme, 2017; final examination: 01-10-2018.
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