Lightweight VR glove enables you to feel and grab virtual objects

To directly experience and feel the virtual reality (VR), various technologies have been developed that connect VR and the real world. Head-mounted displays and gloves for hand motion recognition are few examples.

VR technology can effectively transport us from real-world to a digital world. And the effect might soon be better than ever, all thanks to newly developed VR glove from the team of engineers in Korea. The team has designed a flexible and lightweight glove that can effectively mimic the sensations of manipulating digital objects. By interacting with virtual reality to provide tactile feedback, it allows the wearer to feel and handle virtual objects.

This new glove actually transmits the details of a virtual object’s shape to the fingertips of the user. Like other hardware, the silicon device uses (pressure of finger) sensors to detect the wearer’s movements and actuators to provide physical feedback via mechanical stimuli such as vibration. Some previously developed actuators were able to reproduce the texture of virtual objects accurately, but they could not provide information about their shape.

The actual appearance of the integrated glove.
The actual appearance of the integrated glove.

The sensors equipped into the rubber gadget detect even tiny movements of fingers. They make use of piezoelectric technology, materials that produce an electric charge when squeezed. Every bend and flick of a finger produces a measurable electric pulse, which the software can translate into commands for the virtual hand.

The actuators are basically a flat little air bubble encased in a thin silicone skin. By using an electric current to change the shape of the silicone, the researchers could force the air inside into a tighter space. Variation in signal changed the height of the bubble, and they could turn it on and off instantly. The team put them in the fingertips of the VR glove, and suddenly the user’s hand is tricked into touching or grabbing something.

New VR glove weighs about a third of a pound and the prototype glove only fits three of the hand’s fingers, and each only gets one actuator. “We expect that our developed glove will be used in several ways by linking with various VR software,” researchers wrote in the study published in Scientific Reports.

They successfully tested their glove using a virtual chessboard program, where users picked digital chess pieces, with data further transmitted via Bluetooth to a software program that recreates corresponding movements of the virtual hand. The authors suggest that it may be used in different virtual reality environments by linking it with different software.

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