Last year, an astonishing combination-exoskeleton project hit the headlines. His goal was to simulate movements accompanying images of virtual reality. An innovation signed AxonVR, a Seattle start-up that has just renamed itself HaptX.
She now presents a glove based on the same principle.
Shape, volume and texture
The HaptX Glove, used with HTC Vive headphones, aims to give the impression of touching different shapes, volumes and textures. Stroking the foam of a tree, holding a small fox in the palm of his palm or letting his fingers sink into the keys of a piano, all these experiences now possible in virtual reality. And it’s never seen!
The sensation of force feedback via joysticks working with virtual reality devices is however already common in professional circles. CEA operators, who practice handling robots remotely in dangerous environments, are thus customary. As for the general public, it can also interact in virtual worlds with joysticks but in a very limited way and totally disembodied because without real haptic feedback, some vibrations aside other devices, such as the VR Manus gloves, also send vibrations to simulate a contact but without offering the possibility of knowing with what.
To achieve such a result, the HaptX Glove is made with a smart silicone fabric, thin and flexible like a second skin. The latter is composed of hundreds of small air pockets that act as haptic actuators. They are placed in number under the fingers and less densely under the palms. Every time you touch something in the virtual world, these air bubbles inflate, constraining your skin in the same way as a real object. By modulating the pressure thanks to tiny valves, the sensation is modified with an accuracy of two millimeters. This is called microfluidics. Optionally, it is possible to add a second layer of microchannels where circulate small amounts of water to feel the sensation of temperature.
The glove is also able to simulate a force feedback thanks to the same process of air bubbles. This allows applying a resistance of 2 kilos on each finger.
Soon an exoskeleton?
If the technology looks extremely promising, the device remains cumbersome. As can be seen in the photo below, the glove is connected by a cable to a huge external module, serving in particular to propel the air.
However, this is only a prototype for the moment, marketing should not occur before 2018. And HaptX should not stop at this accessory. “The gloves are just the beginning,” promises the official website. Company founder Jake Rubin dreams of integrating his technology into a complete combination and combining it with an exoskeleton. In order to be totally immersed in a virtual world.