Virtual reality technology is getting better every day, but unless it incorporates touch-based elements, it will be limited to just visual stimulation, no matter how high the resolution is. While there are touch based controllers available for VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift, their usage will remain limited to gaming.

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A new technology might create a 3D sensation, which might highly enhance the VR viewing experience — shape-shifting robots. At a TechCrunch: Robotics event held on Monday, researchers demonstrated a portable shape display which will stimulate the surface a person is touching in VR. The robots called ReVeal can follow the user around the room in the real world and can replicate the sensations needed for virtual reality to feel more realistic.

Currently the project is at research level and hasn’t reached any commercial stage, but it holds great possibilities.

This is not the only technology that is trying to create a physical feel to go along with the VR. A new Synthesia suit called the Void also recreates VR sensations using haptic feedback.

In fact, the same MIT media lab, where the shape-shifting robots come from had showcased the TRANSFORM VR setup in 2014, which uses a similar technology, but comprises of a large setup. Unlike the shape-shifting robots moving to stay close to the user, with the TRANSFORM VR setup, it's the user's responsibility to stay close at all times.

But what makes this prototype different from previous ones is that it is actually creating an ease of usage — instead of using bulky setups or putting on external gear, all the user needs to do is put on VR headsets and the shape-shifting robots would do the rest. While the technology is still far from the ultimate VR dream of just putting on a headset and getting transported to a virtual world, with all its sensations, it is a step in that direction.

The technology, in its current state also has its limitations. If you want the game to get more realistic and keep on increasing the resolution, which regulates the robots, it will come to a level where the pins will get smaller, and more importantly, sharper.

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VR as a technology is currently at what can be called an arcade stage — it needs a large setup to provide a user with the best experience possible. To replicate the feel of the virtual world for a user in the real world is a tough task. But, it needs to be done with the minimum of gear involved, since it has its own restrictions and obviously adds a layer of artificiality to the experience.

That being said, the shape shifting robots present a real opportunity for VR — if they can be scaled down the to the size of VR controllers. If the mechanism can be built into VR controllers, it would enhance the feel of  VR and make it more, well, realistic.