Implications of Texture & Pressure in VR

Microsoft unveiled its Normal Touch and Texture Touch controllers.  They are specialized controllers that give people feedback to make them believe they are touching real objects in VR. Longer write up here and video is embedded below.  

The controllers aren't perfect and you are limited to getting feedback on the tip of your finger. However, the technology itself is an important gateway to more immersive experiences. People have powerful associations with texture and pressure that designers can use to change people's feelings inside of the experience.  

In a previous post, Metaphors are Jet Fuel, I discussed how feeling differing textures affected subsequent decision-making without people's conscious awareness of the influence.  The example I used was the metaphor of rough or smooth social interactions. Consider these common metaphors in American English:  

  • Having a rough day
  • Using coarse language
  • Being rough around the edges
  • Acting as a smooth operator

These new Microsoft controllers could be key to experiences that depend on creating feelings that are commonly associated with texture and pressure.  When people feel those sensations on the controllers, it will activate their associations with softness, smoothness, pressure, etc.