Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is working on haptic gloves to bring the virtual world closer to our fingers. According to the firm, these gloves have been in the works for seven years and there are still a few more to go.
The wearer of these gloves would be able to interact with and control the virtual environment, as well as experience it in a manner comparable to how one would experience the actual world. The gloves would be used in conjunction with an AR or VR headset. Two users engage in a remote thumb wrestling bout, according to a video posted on Meta’s blog. They see a pair of disembodied hands reflecting the actions of their own hands in their virtual reality headsets. They should be able to feel every squeeze and twitch of their partner’s hand through their gloves, at least that’s the theory.
In a corporate blog, Sean Keller, Meta Reality Lab’s research director, stated, “We use our hands to interact with people, to learn about the world, and to take action within it.” “By bringing complete hand presence into AR and VR, we can take advantage of a lifetime of motor learning.”
Meta’s haptic reach is currently greater than its grab, but they are attempting to bridge the gap. Meta’s goal is to produce lightweight, customized gloves that express all of the tactile information we’re used to, such as pressure, texture, and weight. The glove would be able to detect hand movements with pinpoint accuracy and communicate virtual information to the wearer, such as when the glove comes into contact with a virtual surface or item.
Soft robotics and microfluidics technologies, such as those utilized in limb prostheses, aided the designers in laying the groundwork for the glove. Hundreds of small motors called actuators cover the prototype, which right now seems like some heavy-duty winter sport or metallurgical gear with a few cables. The actuators are in charge of relaying constantly changing feelings from the virtual world to the actual world on the wearer’s hand. Pneumatic and electroactive actuators, which use air pressure to exert force and alter size and form in reaction to an electrical field, were used by the development team. A pneumatic actuator can pack many more pneumatic actuators onto a glove than a standard mechanical actuator.
A high-speed microfluidic processor will be in charge. This tiny computer chip will control the airflow that drives the actuators, telling the glove’s valves when and how much to open and close. The user’s motions will be fully synchronized with what they experience in a refined image of the gloves. If users place their hands on a virtual surface, the CPU will engage the actuators, which will transmit the surface’s solid stiffness. We’re still a long way from haptic gloves, much alone a whole bodysuit, but Meta believes this prototype is a good start.
AR-capable eyewear and a wearable wrist gadget are also in the works at Meta as part of their eventual objective of anchoring a virtual environment. The glasses would allow the wearer to traverse the actual environment while still attending to distant and virtual demands such as making a coffee order or looking at spreadsheets. The wearable gadget serves as a means of navigating and manipulating the virtual environment rather than experiencing it. Consider it a next-generation mouse that allows you to make decisions with only a flick of your wrist.
Meta’s strategy, though, has already hit some roadblocks. HaptX, a haptics business, issued a statement on Tuesday stating that the main components of Meta’s prototype “appear to be substantively identical” to their patented technology. While Meta continues to utilize HaptX’s technology, the company’s founder and CEO says he’s looking for “a reasonable and equitable agreement” to remedy the problem.