Haptics for VR

5 years ago

VR haptic feedback platform for Adidas to promote the launch of James Harden's new sneaker.

Video by Tool of North America

Tool of North America produced the 360 video and I added the tactile layer to the experience. The pop-up installation gave visitors the chance to stand in the middle of a basketball court and watch James dribble, jump, and slam dunk. The haptic feedback was synced with the video and would trigger certain haptic effects at specific keyframes.

GIF by Tool of North America


Since the setting of the video took place on a basketball court, I wanted to use the transducers both as a way to build suspense, but also to mimic the floor vibrations you would feel on a real wooden court. I also added CPU fans on the right and left side of the viewer providing a whoosh of air every time James would brush past the viewer in the video.


Since the clients needed control the installation, I used Max MSP installed on an inexpensive Dell PC. The Max patch provided a graphical interface to access the underlying program during playback and controlled the events happening between the Unity application playing in the headset, the tactile transducers plugged into the audio interface and the Arduino microcontroller that controlled the lights and fans.

I set up a wireless local area network so that wifi traffic would not interfere with the system and used an encoding called Open Sound Control to send data packets from the wireless headset to the PC. This created a stable system with minimal downtime and the ability to send real-time data.


I hired a composer to write a composition for the haptic feedback to create a richer experience and more realistic sounds of a basketball dribbling or a foot hitting the floor. These audio waveforms were played through the tactile transducer.

The lighting received the same artistic touch and another patch used probability algorithms to mimic a flickering fluorescent bulb that was starting to burn out.

GIF by Tool of North America


The launch was a success — there’s really no way you can go wrong when you combine a highly anticipated sneaker launch from an NBA rockstar with Virtual Reality. I traveled with the installation in 3 of the cities — Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Houston, and the feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive. For many, this was the first time they used VR and the emotional impact and memories of their positive experience became thereafter associated with the Adidas brand.

Hunter Futo

Published 5 years ago