Existing glove-like systems that provide physical feedback had either provided less-than-realistic vibrations or have been bulky and impractical.
Korean scientists have come up with an alternative — a fine and lightweight mitt made from silicone that expands to allow users to experience pressure. With the glove, gamers can interpret the size and shape of a virtual object — even though such are just computer-generated simulations.
Designed by Korea Institute of Science and Technology roboticist Youngsu Cha and colleagues, the VR glove has sensors on the thumb, index and middle fingers and can fake the sensation of handling, prodding or stroking a host of different materials.
The device allows the wearer to manipulate a virtual hand to pick up an object in virtual reality and feel its shape. As you move your hand towards the virtual object, your finger movements are detected by sensors inthe glove. Data from the sensors are transferred via Bluetooth to a software programme that recreates the corresponding movements of a virtual hand on a screen.
Taking hold of the virtual object triggers switches, or actuators, made out of a soft and lightweight form of silicone developed by Dr Cha and colleagues. The switches receive a signal from the simulated environment which causes air inside them to move, expanding the silicone in their centre.
The device could be used for a myriad of applications — from games, to remote surgery and even creating hyper-realistic recreations of ancient civilisations that users could tangibly interact with.
'There are many gloves for virtual reality. However, their feedback is based on vibration. Mine is based on pressing,' said Dr Cha. 'For example, when a user grabs a virtual object, while conventional ones give vibration feedback, the proposed device pushes the skin of the fingertip.' 'It is close to the real situation.'
There are other glove designs that offer pressure feedback, Dr Cha noted. All the designs work by using sensors that detect the wearer’s movements and actuators that provide physical feedback via mechanical stimuli, such as vibration. 'But their actuators are motorised and have a rigid structure. So, they are bulky and heavy.'
'Ours is lightweight — enabling the wearer to feel the actual shape of an array of virtual objects.' Dr Cha says his model should be available to buy on the high street 'within a few years.'
This has implications for Daden as we could optimise the technology to further the 3D immersive learning and training experiences.