PropelWalker : A Leg-Based Wearable System With Propeller-Based Force Feedback for Walking in Fluids in VR

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

2 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
Journal / PublicationIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Online published8 Sept 2022
Publication statusOnline published - 8 Sept 2022


There has been an increasing focus on haptic interfaces for virtual reality (VR), to support a high-quality touch experience. However, it is still challenging to haptically simulate the real-world walking experience in different fluid mediums. To tackle this problem, we present PropelWalker, a pair of calf-worn haptic devices for simulating the buoyancy and the resistant force when the human's lower limbs are interacting with different fluids and materials in VR. By using four ducted fans, two installed on each calf, the system can control the strength and the direction of the airflow in real time to provide different levels of force. Our technical evaluation shows that PropelWalker can generate vertical forces up to 27N in two directions (i.e., upward and downward) within 0.85 seconds. Furthermore, the system can stably maintain the generated force with minor turbulence. We further conducted three user-perception studies to understand the capability of PropelWalker to generate distinguishable force stimuli. Firstly, we conducted the just-noticeable-difference (JND) experiments to investigate the threshold of the human perception of on-leg air-flow force feedback. Our second perception study showed that users could distinguish four PropelWalker-generated force levels for simulating different walking mediums (i.e., dry ground, water, mud, and sand), with an average accuracy of 94.2%. Lastly, our VR user study showed that PropelWalker could significantly improve the users' sense of presence in VR.

Research Area(s)

  • Fans, Fluid, Foot, Force, Force feedback, haptic, Legged locomotion, propeller, Propellers, Propulsion, virtual reality