While virtual reality has progressed leaps and bounds in the past few years, with motion-based inputs and a plethora of promising VR headsets close on the horizon, our ability to actually feel what we see in virtual worlds remains limited – especially in the consumer space. But a team of engineering students at Rice University is trying to solve this problem with a haptic glove that lets you feel virtual objects and environments like they're actually there.
The Hands Omni glove is being targeted at gamers, with VR-focused gaming technology company Virtuix – famous for the Virtuix Omni treadmill – sponsoring work to turn it into a commercial product.
Right now it's just a prototype, however. "What we’ve made is a glove that uses air to inflate bladders underneath your fingers," says mechanical engineering student Thor Walker. "So you can hook this up to a video game and when you reach out and grab a virtual object, it feels like you’re actually grabbing that object."
The glove fits on your right hand and works without any external wires or cables. It provides haptic feedback through bladders in the fingertips that expand and contract to give the sense that you're holding or touching an object. The ring and pinky fingers trigger pressure as one in the prototype, which is fairly consistent with their limited independence in the human hand, while the other fingers and thumb can receive separate signals.
The Hands Omni glove weighs around 350 g (12 oz), which its creators say makes it light enough to be comfortable on your hand even for long sessions. "The user will hardly know it's there," says team member Kevin Koch.
It's not yet ready for the public, though. Walker compares the current state of the project to Google Cardboard – it works, but it needs further development before it's ready to sell to a general consumer audience.
You can see a video of the glove in action below.
Source: Rice University