These New Gloves Let You Grab and Feel Virtual Objects

The novel lightweight wearables allow users to virtually manipulate and feel non-existent objects in a realistic way.

Virtual Reality has been making great strides in the past few years resulting in such innovations as virtual cocktails to virtual smell. Now, it seems virtual touch may just be on its way too!

Scientists from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and ETH Zurich have just announced the development of an ultra-light glove that can allow wearers to manipulate and even feel virtual objects. Needless, to say the potential applications of this technology are limitless. 

Surprisingly, the glove is also very lightweight – under 8 grams per finger – and can generate "up to 40 Newtons of holding force on each finger with just 200 Volts and only a few milliWatts of power." Best of all, it can run efficiently on a very small battery.

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The novel wearable has a very low form factor of only 2 mm thickness allowing for an impressive level of precision and freedom of movement. “We wanted to develop a lightweight device that – unlike existing virtual-reality gloves – doesn’t require a bulky exoskeleton, pumps or very thick cables,” said in a statement Herbert Shea, head of EPFL’s Soft Transducers Laboratory (LMTS).

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The scientists have named their glove DextrES and have so far successfully tested it on volunteers in Zurich. They are now seeking to scale up the device to apply it to other body parts.

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“Gamers are currently the biggest market, but there are many other potential applications – especially in healthcare, such as for training surgeons. The technology could also be applied in augmented reality,” added Shea. 

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