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Touch Digital Objects with 3DSystems’ Haptic 3D Stylus

The Touch from 3DSystems is a haptic stylus for 3D design and gaming.

The Touch from 3DSystems is a haptic stylus for 3D design and gaming.

Ever wish you could reach out and touch digital objects? Now you can, with 3DSystems' Touch stylus. When you move the Touch against a digital object in a virtual space, such as a video game or 3D sculpture, you’ll feel pressure on the physical stylus in your hand, mimicking the shape and resistance of a real object.

Available starting today (Jan. 5), the Touch sells for $599 and also comes with Cubify Sculpt, 3DSystems’ digital modeling software. With Touch and Cubify, users can shape 3D objects in a virtual space similar to how one would sculpt an object in a physical space.

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The Touch is a haptic device, meaning it relates to users' sense of touch, as opposed to sight or hearing. In this case, Touch lets you “feel” a given digital object or environment displayed on your computer.

The Touch consists of a pen-shaped stylus, attached by a robotic arm to a sturdy base which is itself attached to a computer. The tip of the stylus corresponds to a point, or cursor in a given digital environment on the computer screen. Think of a regular computer mouse, but  one that can move in three dimensions instead of two.

Usually the Touch’s robotic arm is loose, allowing you to move the stylus freely and thus move your digital cursor freely. But if the digital cursor encounters a virtual object, the robotic arm will stiffen, as if the physical pen is also pressing against a physical object.

This type of haptic feedback gives digital artists the sense that they’re sculpting a physical object instead of shaping a digital model. Using Touch with the Cubify Sculpt program, for example, could make it easier for people to create 3D models such as vases, cups or statues. These could then be 3D printed.

But Touch is not just for artists; 3DSystems says it can also be used as a gaming controller for certain video games. The company is offering a free downloadable game called Hapstack, which can be played with both the Touch and the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

We’ll get to touch the Touch ourselves later this week, when the device is displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada.  

Jill Scharr is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she regularly covers security, 3D printing and video games. You can email Jill at, or follow her on Twitter @JillScharr and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Jill Scharr is a creative writer and narrative designer in the videogame industry. She previously worked as a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide, covering video games, online security, 3D printing and tech innovation.