Gloves to “feel” virtual reality

What would you do if you could feel the rain falling, a beating heart, or even practice archery, all from the comfort of your own home? This immersive capability would offer a new dimension to virtual environments, allowing users to live in a particularly realistic imaginary world.

A recent invention developed by a team of researchers from the National University of Singapore promises to enhance the sense of touch within virtual reality, with the aim of providing a more authentic and immersive experience in the metaverse.

The invention in question, called the HaptGlove, is a lightweight, wireless haptic glove (a glove for “touching”) that provides users with the equivalent of the sensation of skin contact, as well as the sensations of movement, when interacting with a virtual object.

If the concept of the haptic handle is not new, current technologies are unable to provide a real sense of touch. For example, common models of these gloves use vibrating motors, which cannot replicate the feeling of touch, especially when it comes to simulating the hardness and shape of an object in virtual reality.

Other haptic gloves use a pneumatic system, which generates a sense of pressure, but their large size largely limits users’ movement, the researchers say.

“My experience with reality and the metaverse has always been unsatisfactory. Virtual reality doesn’t have to be just about the visual and auditory experience; we must be offered the ability to interact with objects in virtual reality. However, the usual methods of touching a virtual panel or interacting with another avatar do not have the touch sensation that exists in the real world. This prompted me to work with my team to design a haptic glove that enables ‘physical touch’ in the virtual world,” said Professor Lim Chwee Teck, who is director of the Institute for Health Innovation and Technology and leader of the research team.

Almost in real time

The specialty of the HaptGlove, according to the research team, is that it is equipped with lightweight pneumatic controls in addition to microfluidic technology, which aims to significantly reduce the size and weight of the device, in addition to requiring no bulky accessories. .

“HaptGlove’s unique design allows users to interact with the virtual world in a more natural and realistic way, which will give more free sensations in virtual reality,” added Prof. Lim.

The glove contains five pairs of haptic feedback modules, one for each finger. These modules are remotely controlled to “sense” a virtual object in terms of shape, size and hardness.

Basically, this feeling is made possible thanks to microfluidic pressures generated in real time by a pneumatic system. It is also possible to simulate the size and stiffness of an object touched by the avatar, in the virtual world, by constraining the position of the user’s fingers. This adds to the realism of the virtual interaction, the researchers say.

And according to the latter, using proprietary software, the latency of the tactile sensations of the gloves is less than 20 milliseconds, which is approaching “real time”.

The latest prototype of the haptic gloves weighs only 250 grams, far below the more than 450 grams of other commercial models.

Beyond video games, the researchers argue that their glove could also be used in medicine and education, including helping surgeons better prepare for operations by simulating a hyper-realistic environment, or providing a hands-on experience for students in the simulation. palpation of different parts of the body.

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