Virtual reality haptic gloves

22 December 2019

Interview with 

Joe Marino, Haptx

HaptX-Gloves-Handshake.jpg

Haptic glove

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Now if you’re a fan of video games, you might be excited about VR - or virtual reality - technology. At the moment you can buy VR goggles with screens and headphones that make you feel like you’re really inside the world of your favourite game. Phil Sansom from the Naked Scientists team has been trying out the next stage of VR, which introduces a sense of touch: these are gloves that make you feel like you’re actually touching the virtual objects you can see. They’ve been developed by a company called Haptx. Phil met product director Joe Marino at the Cambridge Consultants Innovation Day, where he was showcasing the new technology…

Joe - These are haptics gloves. They enable you to reach out and touch and interact with the virtual world like you do with the real world. They provide haptic feedback that makes the virtual objects feel like real objects. So VR that you can touch stuff. We have an array of effectively bubbles that we inflate pneumatically with air pressure that displaces the same amount your skin would displace when you go out and touch real world objects. So you squeeze something harder, we push more into your skin, you touch something lightly, we we use very slightly into your skin. Additionally, there is a force feedback component that we can prevent your hands as you're grasping something from passing all the way through a virtual object.

Phil - Can you show me on the actual gloves?

Joe - So the first thing like you to do is if you give me your right hand, we'd like to take a quick hand measurement to make that your virtual hand matches your physical hand in size. Perfect. Thank you. Put on these two liner gloves. Very hygienic. We're gonna put the gloves on you now slide your hand in.

Phil - Oh, they're more comfortable than I thought they'd be. 

Joe - We spent a lot of time and effort making them as comfortable as possible. 

Phil - It feels like two layers of normal, like woolen gloves; but on the back is this huge chunky bit of black plastic with tubes running out, going to these caps that you stuck on the end of my fingers and there's a bit around the wrist as well. Okay. All right. I'm ready to put the headset on me. I'm looking at what looks like a barn and a windmill and a field, but I'm way bigger than it and it's all done in cartoony graphics. What do I do?

Joe - This whole world is interactable. You can reach out and touch and grab and play with whatever you want. So the first thing that's going to happen is there gonna be some rain that's going to come out of that one of those clouds there in a second. If you put your Palm up under the rain, you'll feel the raindrops as they're coming down and hitting the palm of your hand.

Phil - That's creepy. Feels like little tiny blips.

Joe - So everything in this world is physically simulated and we're using those physical simulations to give you the tactile feedback that you're feeling. It's not more complicated. It takes a bit of extra knowledge to understand what is the right way to set things up. But people who can know how to develop games and game engines are pretty good at making this next step to make the environment haptically enabled. If you press that last button and then you want to grab that flyswatter probably and then you can swat the UFOs or they're going to steal everything from your farm.

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