Virtual reality is the future. Big firms such as Facebook, Google and Sony invested much of their time, efforts and money in developing cutting-edge hardware, and most importantly, affordable one to allow for immersive VR experiences for common consumers. Among these are Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Sony’s PlayStation VR.
As VR has been mostly exploited in the gaming industry, people might think that it is only used for games. However, today, this technology is extensively used in the film-making industry through the wide-eyed VR movies and in ‘visiting’ places through remote tours of museums and houses for estate agents.
Away from space exploration, VR is used in developing Surgeon Simulators to allow for a fully-interactive, accurately modelled specimens for trainees to practice and therefore, result in better-trained and better-performing surgeons.
Certainly, Virtual Reality became an undeniable game changer in numerous industries as explained above. Lately, and with the development of the new ‘haptic gloves’, the VR experiences are becoming more realistic as users are now capable of touching virtual objects through Ultra-Light Haptic Gloves.
A group of scientists at EPFL in collaboration with ETH Zurich have made a major step toward creating a technology that lets users manipulate, touch and grasp virtual objects. With a no more than 8 grams piece of gloves, this innovative hand-ware is capable of generating up to 40 Newtons of holding force on each finger with a limited power (i.e. 200 volts and a few milliwatts of power).
Head of APFL’s Soft Transducers Laboratory (LMTS), Mr. Herbert Shea – “We wanted to develop a lightweight device that – unlike existing virtual reality gloves – doesn’t require a bulky exoskeleton, pumps or very thick cables”.
“The human sensory system is highly developed and highly complex. We have many different kinds of receptors at a very high density in the joints of our fingers and embedded in the skin. As a result, rendering realistic feedback when interacting with virtual objects is a very demanding problem and is currently unsolved. Our work goes one step in this direction, focusing particularly on kinaesthetic feedback,” says Otmar Hilliges, head of the Advanced Interactive Technologies Lab at ETH Zurich.
This unique Glove was named DextrES and elected to be a highly competitive candidate in the next ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) as it is considered to be the first piece towards scaling into an entire suit that would definitely change how VR is perceived.
Shea explains that “the system’s low power requirements is due to the fact that it doesn’t create a movement, but blocks one”. As a result, scaling up the device and apply it to other parts of the body using conductive fabric (i.e. nylon and thin elastic metal strips) made the task of designing an entire suit feasible.
Sara, Consultant, Leyton UK
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