In the ongoing search for increasing realism and immersion in virtual reality (VR), haptic gloves are one of the more popular avenues of research, with several different variants being displayed by various companies at trade shows during 2018. Researchers at EPFL and ETH Zurich have developed new lightweight haptic gloves.
Though various types of haptic feedback systems have existed for some time, the are often considered to be cumbersome, and the fit is difficult to get right for many users.
The new gloves, referred to as DextrES, work by embedding a flexible metal within the fingers of the nylon gloves, with a thin insulator between the layers. When the users interact with a virtual object, such as to pick up an object, a voltage different is applied to the metal strips, causing them to stick together. This prevents the user from fully closing their hand, giving the impression that something is in the hand.
“The human sensory system is highly developed and highly complex,” says Otmar Hilliges, head of the Advanced Interactive Technologies Lab at ETH Zurich. “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.”
In order to test the DextrES gloves, the researchers had volunteers perform various tasks in VR that needed fine motor skills, which was said to result in positive results. The gloves also received praise for being less bulky than other systems, being only 2mm thick and weighing only 8g per finger.
“We wanted to develop a lightweight device that – unlike existing virtual-reality gloves – doesn’t require a bulky exoskeleton, pumps or very thick cables,” says Herbert Shea, head of the Soft Transducers Laboratory at EPFL.
For future coverage on the DextrES project and other VR hardware and peripherals, keep checking back with VRFocus.