Touchy feely virtual reality? There's a glove for that

Touchy feely virtual reality? There's a glove for that
A couple of university students have designed an interactive glove that lets you actually feel what's on your computer.

It’s not hard to imagine uses for an interactive glove. Think playing NBA Live, minus the joystick, just using your hands to feel and dunk a ball. Or think of a stroke patient re-learning to work with a hand that has lost feeling, using the glove to amplify the sensation of touching an object.

Imagine no more. The Hollywood fantasy of being able to interact in the virtual world (Minority Report or Iron Man) is one step closer, with two AUT University students creating the Haptic Feedback Glove – a glove that mimics your hand in the virtual world and lets you feel physically what is being touched virtually through the glove.

AUT Colab student Jacques Foottit, the mastermind behind the glove, says it came from the idea of being able to interact in a fully immersive environment without actually having an interface – things like keyboards, joysticks and a mouse – in the way.

Describing the current interfaces as “awkward”, Foottit envisioned a seamless integration between the real and virtual worlds. In theory, the wearer will be able to hold a virtual cup of coffee and feel the cup handle in the real world, and even have to hold it steadily to avoid spilling its contents. And the glove could revolutionise the gaming industry by replacing current devices such as the Nintendo Wiimote or Razer Hydra.

The sci-fi sounding Haptic Feedback Glove works by interacting with a computer and providing feedback to the user based on what is happening virtually.

The computer sends signals to the glove, stimulates the fingertips and muscles of the hand and creates a sensation that replicates the feeling you would get in the real world. In layman’s terms, Foottit says the glove is a “souped-up computer mouse”.

A third-year student in AUT’s Colab creative technologies programme, Foottit was inspired by another group’s project using the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset. One challenge they had was getting users to interact wirelessly in a natural way while wearing the headset.

“That kind of got me thinking about this glove project.” The idea caught the attention of fellow creative technologies student Dave Brown, a second-year student, who jumped at the opportunity to collaborate to make the glove. “We both have different strengths,” says Brown.

“Jacques is more [tailored towards] engineering and I’m more into the programming side of things. “We can quite happily both work on different aspects of the project.”

The pair has been working together since March and the glove is still in its infant stages, but already they are thinking of potential uses outside gaming.

Imagine French DJ David Guetta performing a set using equipment at a club in Auckland, while physically being in his home on the other side of the world.

The glove would transfer the movements and motions of Guetta turntabling to his Auckland audience in real time. And Guetta would be able to feel his equipment with the same precision and accuracy as he would be able to if he were physically touching it.

Meanwhile, the students say the recent addition of a muscle stimulation system in the glove mean it really could be used in physical rehabilitation.