Final Year Project- Industrial Design & Technology, Loughborough University.

Please get in touch via Email to request the full report of the project.

LOCUS is a haptic device used to aid situated testimony, a process of interviewing and gathering testimonies from witnesses using 3D models of the environments in which traumatic events occurred.

LOCUS allows witnesses to interact with spatial models through VR, exploring their memories of the episode in a controlled and secure manner, which could lead to fragments of recollection surfacing previously obscured by violence and trauma.

*University project, not comissioned by Forensic Architecture.

- The Narrative -


“I lost five years of my life there, I nearly died there. The world should know it’s the worst place on earth.”

- Diab Serriya, former detainee.
A case study was built around Saydnaya Prison- Since 2011, thousands have died in prisons and detention facilities operated by the Syrian government. Tens of thousands of people have been tortured and ill-treated, in violation of international law.
In April 2016, Forensic Architecture met with five survivors from Saydnaya Prison. As there are no images of Saydnaya in the public domain, The former detainees described the cells and other details to researchers, who would reconstruct the spaces using architectural modelling.

To enhance the process, LOCUS proposes to tackle the distorted or lack of visual memory, as well as cutting down descriptive burden of the witnesses during a testimony by allowing them to directly interact with the 3D model.

 “We have done a few projects involving situated testimony facilitated with VR and your work on haptic feedback seems as though it could be another vital piece of the puzzle in the field of Forensic Architecture. I can imagine how powerful it would be for a witness to be able to interact with an object in a space with some kind of touch feedback mechanism.”

- Nick Masterton,
Researcher at Forensic Architecture.

- Existing Limitations -

Descriptive Burden
Long process of describing a space in detail.

Distorted or Lack of Visual Memory
Memory based on touch and audio.

Lack of Mediation Between Lay-person & Technology Low level of realism in  3D viewport. Confusion with the use of VR controllers.

Performative Aspects of a Testimony
Lack of props for direct interaction.

Images via  Torture in Saydnaya Prison from Forensic Architecture on Youtube.

- Product Features -

LOCUS features both force and tactile feedback, providing the user with muscular resistance when grasping a virtual object in VR, as well as the sense of touch and texture when interacting with virtual surfaces.

Modulated components design inspired by Madrasostes Kazumai Beetles allows the movement of the hand to be unrestricted.

Ladder-lock buckles to provide adjustability for variable finger lengths.

All modules are attached onto gloves by Velcro pads, which can be removed for the gloves to be washed.

Removable Battery: LiPo battery pack connected through magnetic connector. Battery lasts 30 mins for the duration of each session, second pair charging on dock, ready to be swapped in. Wires embedded in the wrist and palm harness.

Force Feedback: Electromagnetic Brake, muscular resistance when interacting a virtual object.

When the fingers are flexed into a fist, an additional length required in flexion is equivalent to around 16% of the total length. A Braking mechanism consisting an electromagnet + steel disc system positioned on the dorsal (back of hand) , clamping down onto the strip of weaved nylon fibre along the finger when activated, would prevent the 0-16% extension length generated, resisting the finger’s bending force.

-Compression springs to release steel disc.
-Extension spring connected to weaved nylon fibre strip to retract back to its original position when EM brake is unengaged and finger straightened.

An electromagnetic braking system was developed for force feedback, which incorporates pivoting bearings to allow left & right XY planar rotational movements of the finger, lacking in existing products.

Tactile Feedback:  Data collected to drive vibration motor at the fingertip, mimicking the sense of touch and texture.

1. Virtual Surface.
2. Normal/Bump Map.
3. Height Data.
4. Vibration intensity.

Virtual Space vs Studio Space

Reducing the complex procedure of describing a space in detail, the witness is able to directly interact with the 3D environment, enchancing the performative aspects of a testimony.

Immersive experience with high fidelity textured environment.

Exploration of memory in a controlled process to ensure safety.

“The opening was this big.” / “The object was here.”

“We’re starting to do more immersive and phenomenological descriptions of the space, in real-time using a game engine. I feel like the use of VR and haptic implementation for spatialising human rights violations is a great application.”

- Nick Masterton, researcher at Forensic Architecture.


Motion tracking technology is built within the new lines of VR and AR headsets, eliminating the need for VR controllers. However, it ignores human capabilities such as the hands’ ability to feel and manipulate. LOCUS’s haptic feedback provide an opportunity for the human hands to directly manipulate VR objects.

Functional Prototype: Using the Leap Motion infrared sensor, the hardware reports positions, gestures and motion by reading the change in angle of finger per frame of detection.

In order to bridge the hardware to Arduino, JavaScript with modules: Node.js, gIMatrix, Firmata, Johnny-Five and Underscore.js, were used. Video (right) shows servo motor mapped to the movement of the index finger.

Virtual Interaction: Using hands as controllers- Most approachable and direct. Gesture commands such as taking a screenshot using the “finger framing” gesture.


- RnD -

Research, concept generation and iterations of prototypes.

Development of design aesthetics and function. Through:
- Sketching, Lo to Hi-fidelity prototyping.
- Case study compared to Forensic Architecture’s Saydnaya Prison investigation.
- User testing, evaluation with expert from FA.
- Self critique, remote user testing, physical user testing.

Early concepts

EM Brake Dev

Battery Dev

Base Plates & PCB Holder Dev

Tactile Modules Dev

Outer Cases Dev

Pre-assembled parts. Aesthetic Prototype produced to test interaction and usability, as well as gathering feedback on aesthetics through remote testing.

Interaction Testing

Scenario- Character and Environment creation