Haptic Feedback “Rifle” Lets You Take Aim In VR

There was a time when virtual reality seemed like it would remain in the realm of science fiction at least for the foreseeable future. Then we were blessed with products like the Power Glove and Virtual Boy which seemed to make it more of a reality, if not a clunky and limited one. Now, though, virtual reality is taking more of a center stage as the technology for it improves and more and more games are released. We can see no greater proof of this than the fact that some gamers are building their own custom controllers to interact with the virtual world in more meaningful ways, like this game controller specifically built for first-person shooter games.

The controller is based on an airsoft gun but completely lacks the ability to fire a projectile, instead using the gun as a base for building the controller. In fact, the gun’s operation is effectively reversed in order to immerse the player into the game by using haptic feedback provided by pressurized air. The air is pumped in to what would be the front of the barrel and is discharged through the receiver when a trigger pull is detected in order to generate a recoil effect. The controller includes plenty of other features as well, including the ability to reload ammunition, change the firing mode, and track motion thanks to its pair of integrated Oculus controllers.

All of the parts for this controller are either 3D printed or readily available off-the-shelf, making this an ideal platform for customization and improvement. There’s also a demo game available from Unity which allows for a pretty easy setup for testing. While the controller looks like an excellent way to enjoy an FPS virtual reality experience, if you’re looking for a more general-purpose controller we are also starting to see a lot of development on that end as well.

25 thoughts on “Haptic Feedback “Rifle” Lets You Take Aim In VR

  1. It seems to me that air is not going to do too well for recoil simulation. I’ve seen some very effective feel enhancement using electromagnetic actuators (in one case the device had two of them, in order to better simulate machine gun fire). It may be worth a try.

    1. There is a place I go for training that uses modified handguns that use air compression to actuate the slide. Does it replicate actually recoil of a firearm, not really. However, it does give a simulated feel of what the handgun is doing and makes you correct for it.

      Simulating actual recoil is a hard thing to accomplish without firing a real round. The recoil from the bolt cycling on an AR type rifle is negligible to begin with. The recoil is the firing of the round, that whole “equal and opposite” thing. Blanks, I’ve fired them in both pistols and rifles, do just about the same for recoil as air does. That projectile leaving the barrel does create most of the recoil.

      1. Simulating actual recoil is indeed hard to accomplish. If one has ever dived into shooting or if you’ve seen high speed camera footage… certain weapons, depending on the construction, you can see various parts of the weapon flex, again, depending on the weapon and its design.

        With VR being something trying to break into the mainstream or VR or not, I think a lot of competitve games would be interesting with haptic feedback devices. Awhile back, I was sketching up a sort of vest and wearable with actuation to communicate with game’s hitbox detection – never made it beyond sketches but besides VR, haptic feedback is another way to make certain games feel more realistic and add immersion.

        Immersion is good, but to expect realistic recoil haptic controller immediately is a bit of a far reach.

  2. The lower receiver is fully capable of taking a working fire control group, and in the US would be classified by the ATF as a full fledged firearm. Even worse, the lack of a barrel and inclusion of a stock would classify this as a short barrel rifle, breaking NFA laws. This is terribly designed if anyone in the US plans on trying to make this.

    Source: I’ve worked in the firearm industry for a long time.

    1. There is no barrel, it’s just a lower receiver, it’s not an SBR. It’s completely legal to manufacture a lower receiver in the US. If you work in the firearms industry you should know better.

        1. The ATF are a bunch of douchenozzles but it doesn’t seem to intend to fire projectiles. The recipricating “upper” seems to be intended to emulate recoil as a HID for use in VR or video game applications.

          That is to say, it is a haptic or force-feedback enabled controller based on the bodies of airsoft toys. No projectiles are coming out of this controller.

          Your point about the ATF being a bunch of irresponsible morons is noted. If the guy resides in California or New Jersey, then _maybe_ but the ATF would be doing nothing more than drumming up more bad press for themselves. If this guy gets such a design up to be great, the ATF and other paramilitary LEO along with military could find a use for such a controller.

          If the guy wanted to help himself in this regard, he could pick a generic or space-age looking gun that could represent many different kinds of guns in game, which seems to be the problem with these haptic / recoil devices. In game, you pick up a firearm with AK style controls but the controller is AR based — and things like hand tracking are starting to come up big… it could cause conflicts.

          But the main thing seems to be getting something that accurately represents the haptics of firing a real firearm, which is a difficult problem. Looking for 1:1 parity, probably not going to get there but getting half way there would be great!

      1. He is correct the lower receiver is considered a firearm however wrong about it being an sbr. I guess as long as everyone owning it is 18 (or 21 in states that require it for rifles) then its fine. Honestly though hes technically correct on it being a firearm by legal definition, I don’t think atf would pursue it.

    2. Did you watch the video? The lower is a modified airsoft rifle. I HIGHLY doubt that its capable to receive a functional bolt.

      And even if he did print or mill a functional lower receiver, it legal in the US, you just cant sell the thing. The US would be the safest (legally) to build the thing. Also, the lack of a barrel, includes the lack of a chamber capable of receiving a round. What he made is not considered a firearm at all.

        1. I am aware that the receivers are considered the firearm in the United State. I live in Washington State, I have guns, I was in the Marines. I have completed 80% lowers. His prototype is not a SBR because its not a rifle at all. There are no federal restrictions for airsoft guns.

          Even if his prototype had a <16" barrel and a chamber, its still not a firearm because its an airsoft gun. Airsoft guns are not considered firearms.

          https://youtu.be/NAWumtR1TvY?t=314 "The whole structure is modified from an airsoft gbb"

        1. It has no “B” or “R”. This is not a gun, its not a rifle. This is a controller. Was originally an airsoft gun. But its modified and I wouldn’t even consider that a airsoft gun any longer. Do you consider it a gun because it looks like one? He would attain full auto from using air, co2, or electronically or a bunch of different ways. No matter how he does it, it would never be considered a gun. There are no federal laws about this.

          There is no federal issue. https://youtu.be/NAWumtR1TvY?t=314 “the whole structure is modified airsoft gbb”. Airsoft guns are not considered firearms and are not regulated by the ATF. I can go to my local Big 5 and get a automatic airsoft gun.

          1. It looks to me like a 3d printed lower receiver and has the FCG parts listed in the BOM.. if they fit, and function, by definition it IS a firearm legally speaking, regardless of how you intend to use it.

            But that still likely doesn’t matter, unless they live in a place that is overzealous about spooky guns. Or if you are using a sear mechanism in that lower to allow the piston to not catch when in “full auto” mode. In which case.. regardless of your intentions. You have manufactured a machine gun, legally speaking.

            So in short, know your laws and how they relate to your projects if they even skirt “guns”

        2. This sort of thing is a solved problem, and there is evidence that the designer has taken steps to make the lower a non-firearm. I saw blocks in the magazine well that would prevent a real magazine from fitting. Also, depending on how the electronics are installed, the lower wouldn’t be able to take a real fire control group. Even if it could, all it takes is some modest dimensional changes to render it a non-firearm.

          KWA has a GBB M4 that has a fire control group that works exactly the way it does in a real M4, including a bolt-actuated autosear. By adding blocks in the magazine well and making the upper and lower a slightly different size, they made something that looks like an M4, but won’t accept a real M4-styled upper. Take off the blaze orange flash hider, and it has the look and operating characteristics of a real M4 (even the forward assist works), but it will not accept the parts needed to turn it into an actual firearm.

          1. you are correct about the mag block being there, though ammunition feeding devices aren’t a part of the definition of a firearm. In some states they can create a modifier to what “type” of firearm it could be.

            Any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; The frame or receiver of any such weapon.


            Really, the portion of an AR that is considered the firearm it’s self doesn’t even meet the LEGAL definition of a firearm. It’s especially screwy due to that. Thats why there is the “80%” terminology. To convert a block of aluminum from a paper weight to a firearm, it needs to be able to accept a fire control group. Thats why that is the portion the end user needs to complete to “make a firearm”. At least in the US per the ATF. The BOM includes the springs and pins of a fire control group. if there is an “auto sear” that interacts with that FCG, it becomes a real issue.. watching the entire video it looks like the auto-sear wouldn’t interact with a FCG if it was installed (and would probably hang on the BCG making it single shot), but “some guy on the internet said” isn’t quite cemented in case law just yet.

            In most places (in the US) printing/modifying this isn’t illegal. It really becomes about state laws as long as the person federally is allowed to posses one. in CA for instance, printing this without embedding 3.7 ounces of material type 17-4 PH stainless steel, and asking permission from the state BEFORE you make it.. could be illegal, IF it could accept that FCG.

            so my point of.. know your local laws when skirting firearms remains the same. And thats all I said, this COULD be considered a firearm and MIGHT cross into NFA territory and you SHOULD know for sure, but it’s still not an SBR.

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