Future Tech: New Virtual Reality Gloves Will Simulate The Joy Of Touching And Grabbing Things
It’s been nearly three years since the first commercial release of a virtual reality headset. Since then over 10 million devices have been sold, introducing what could be the next big thing for entertainment to a sizable population.
Although the response to early virtual reality solutions has been reasonably positive, there’s a long way to go before it will feel like you’re in the Matrix. For one, before we can ever live in a world where virtual reality is indistinguishable from our own, we first need some proper haptic feedback.
Thankfully, scientists from EPFL and ETH Zurich have been working on a way for VR users to feel their environment. The result is what’s being called the Dextres, an extremely lightweight glove (8 grams per finger) that uses thin cables and lightweight braces across each finger to deliver a wide array of physical responses when interacting with objects in VR.
Grabbing a virtual iced tea from a virtual vending machine? The Dexteres will use an onboard controller to add resistance to the fingers, simulating the weight of an object in the hands. Poking a virtual person in the face? Your index finger will make sure you feel awkward.
Head of Advanced Interactive Technologies Lab at ETH Zurich, Otmar Hilliges, shared:
The human sensory system is highly developed and highly complex. We have many different kinds of receptors at a very high density in the joints of our fingers and embedded in the skin. As a result, rendering realistic feedback when interacting with virtual objects is a very demanding problem and is currently unsolved. Our work goes one step in this direction, focusing particularly on kinesthetic feedback.
This technology goes way beyond what we’ve seen with vibration on controllers like the DualShock; it simulates all the various feelings your hands experience in daily life.
While the Dexteres is still being worked on, it does have plans for commercial release in a couple of years. For now, vibrating controllers will have to suffice.