Virtual reality is a slow-moving field in some respects. While a lot of focus is put on optical technologies and headsets, there’s a lot more involved when it comes to believably placing a human being in a virtual environment. So far, we’ve gotten a good start at the visuals and head tracking, but interaction technology is still lagging behind a lot. [Lucas] is working in just that area, iterating heavily on his homebrew VR gloves.
The gloves consists of potentiometers, fitted with spools and attached to the tip of each digit on a wearer’s hand by a string. As the user curls their fingers, the potentiometers turn and the position of the fingers can be measured. The potentiometers are all read via an Arduino, which communicates back to a PC via USB. A custom driver is then used to interact with Valve’s SteamVR software, allowing the glove to be used with a wide variety of existing software.
Thus far, the system is merely tracking finger position, but the spool and string based design is intended to support motors down the line for each finger to create resistance, so the user can gain the feeling of touching and interacting with virtual objects. The project has the potential to be a cheaper, more accessible alternative than current off-the-shelf solutions. We’ve seen other hand-tracking gloves before, too – though none that track the spread of a wearer’s hand as well as the finger extension. If you’re working on precisely that, please do drop us a line. Video after the break.
Looking for ideas for your haptics projects? [Destin] of the Smarter Every Day YouTube channel got a tour from the engineers at HaptX of their full-featured VR glove with amazing haptic feedback both with a very fine, 120-point sense of touch, force feedback for each finger, temperature, and motion tracking.
In hacks, we usually stimulate the sense of touch by vibrating something against the skin. With this glove, they use pneumatics to press against the skin. A single fingertip has multiple roughly 1/8 inch air bladders in contact with it. Each bladder is separately pneumatically controlled by pushing air into it. The air pressure can vary continuously so that the bladders can push lightly, harder or anywhere in between. The glove has 120 of these bladders spread out over the fingers and the palm. Unfortunately, they didn’t allow him to see the valves controlling the pneumatics, but if you are looking for a low-frequency, low-cost way to actuate valves you might consider using syringes. The engineers do tell [Destin] that if your VR scene shows something pressing against your virtual finger, as long as your haptics push against your real finger within around 1/8th of a second, your brain won’t notice the delay.
They’re also working on using hot and cold fluids to give a sense of temperature within a glove. This is demonstrated in the first video below when [Destin] feels heat while a dragon in the VR world breathes fire on his hand. Fortunately one of the engineers mentions that our sense of temperature is one of the slower ones, it can handle longer latencies than even touch. We can see implementing this in a hack using a bladder pressing against the skin while tubes circulate different temperature fluids through it. But maybe there’s a way to do it electrically, possibly with thermoelectric modules as is done with this drinks cooler? Though safety issues might prohibit that.
Other features mentioned are force feedback for each finger, and their custom motion tracking which uses both magnetic and optical means to track fingertips. But we’ll leave the rest to the videos below. The first is the technical tour and the second is the glove being used in the VR world.
Movies love to show technology they can’t really build yet. Even in 2001: A Space Oddessy (released in 1968), for example, the computer screens were actually projected film. The tablet they used to watch the news looks like something you could pick up at Best Buy this afternoon. [CircuitDigest] saw Iron Man and that inspired him to see if he could control his PC through gestures as they do on that film and so many others (including Minority Report). Although he calls it “virtual reality,” we think of VR as being visually immersed and this is really just the glove, but it is still cool.
The project uses an Arduino on the glove and Processing on the PC. The PC has a webcam which tracks the hand motion and the glove has two Hall effect sensors to simulate mouse clicks. Bluetooth links the glove and the PC. You can see a video of the thing in action, below.