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Meta is working on gloves to bring the sense of touch to the metaverse

A haptic glove that Meta is working on

One of the obstacles that needs to be addressed for developing a comprehensive metaverse is emulating the sense of touch. Taking on this challenge, one of Meta’s Reality Labs Research teams is developing haptic gloves that are comfortable, customisable, and most importantly, capable of reproducing a range of sensations in virtual worlds including texture, pressure, and vibration.

The work to develop these gloves is still in the early stages of the research process and they reflect this in an accompanying video as they look quite clunky. As they become more practical, Meta hopes to sell these gloves allowing you to pair them with your VR headset or AR glasses. The firm said that the gloves will transform your mixed reality experiences making them more immersive.

Meta said that it has been working on the haptic gloves for the last seven years and that it has had to develop new techniques, technologies, and disciplines. Meta provided several examples of how it has innovated below:

Perceptual Science: Because current technology can’t fully recreate the physics of the real world in VR, we’re exploring the idea of combining auditory, visual and haptic feedback for things like convincing a wearer’s perceptual system that it’s feeling an object’s weight.

Soft robotics: Existing mechanical actuators create too much heat for such a glove to be worn comfortably all day. To solve this, we’re creating new soft actuators — tiny, soft motors all over the glove that move in concert to deliver sensation to the wearer’s hand.

Microfluidics: We’re developing the world’s first high-speed microfluidic processor — a small microfluidic chip that controls the air flow that moves the actuators. The use of air (a fluid) means we can fit many more actuators on the glove than would otherwise be possible with electronic circuitry.

Hand tracking: Even with a way to control air flow, the system needs to know when and where to deliver the right sensations. We’re building advanced hand-tracking technology to enable it to identify precisely where your hand is in a virtual scene, whether you’re in contact with a virtual object and how your hand is interacting with the object.

Haptic rendering: Our haptic renderer sends precise instructions to the actuators on the hand, based on an understanding of things like the hand’s location and properties of the virtual objects (such as texture, weight and stiffness) that the hand comes in contact with.

Given the clunky nature of the gloves and the fact that the firm still has challenges to overcome, it is not yet ready to have the haptic glove research leave the lab but it is excited with the progress it has made so far and the potential that the project has.

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