Rice University students create a feedback wearable device for virtual reality environments.
Though virtual reality has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, a vast majority of recent advancements have been focused around the audible and visual senses — touch not so much. With that in mind, a team of Rice University engineering students has unveiled a haptic glove that lets a wearer feel simulated objects as if they’re actually there. In other words, to make virtuality reality even more “real.”
The Hands Omni glove was designed to provide a way for gamers and others interested in VR to experience the environments they inhabit through the likes of three-dimensional heads-up displays. The prototype — which was introduced at the George R. Brown School of Engineering Design Showcase and developed in collaboration with gaming technology company Virtuix — works by providing force feedback to a user’s fingertips as they touch, press or grip things inside their virtual world.
The right-handed glove is comprised of inflatable bladders that sit underneath each finger, and expand and contract as necessary. What’s more, the wearable is wireless to allow the user to have a full-range of motion without ever having to worry about unwanted cables getting in the way during gameplay.
While the team’s agreement with its sponsor Virtuix means the underlying technology of the glove must remain top-secret, the students did reveal that an Atmel based Arduino is at the heart of its system. Its creators also point out that programmers will find it pretty straightforward to implement the glove’s protocols in future games and other immersive projects.
Basically, as a game is played, signals are sent from a computer using Arduino over to its proprietary system, which in turn inflates each of the individual bladders. The fingers are individually addressable, though pressure on the ring and little fingers is triggered as one unit in the prototype.
For example, say you come across an apple, a baseball or even some sort of weapon in a Call of Duty-style game, and want to pick it up, the Hands Omni will enable you to simply reach out and make it so that it’s as if you are touching a physical object.
The Hands Omni glove weighs around 350 grams (just over 12 ounces), which its creators say makes it light enough to be comfortably worn on a hand for long sessions without ever noticing it’s there.
“We had our own constraints based on testing to determine the amount of perceptible weight that could be strapped to your fingers, arms, legs and limbs — the maximum weight that is perceptible to users — and we came up with 660 grams on the forearm and much less than that on the back of the hand or on the fingers,” explains team member Kevin Koch. “We wanted as much mass as far back on the hand as possible, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”