New haptic gloves aim to make controllers obsolete
Haptic gloves provide tactile feedback in VR, but cannot replace sticks and buttons. The ContactGlove supposedly solves this problem.
Haptic gloves are a fascinating technology for making virtual reality literally tangible. VW has already reported cost savings in assembly training during tests with the Senseglove Nova. "Brakes" on the glove simulate counterpressure when gripping, while a vibration imitates the tactile sensation.
In September, competitor HaptX received a double-digit million dollar grant for innovative haptic products. The company now has a cheaper, improved version of its pneumatic gloves, the HaptX Gloves G1. Business customers can pre-order the current model with a mobile pneumatic backpack starting at $5,495.
Virtual buttons in virtual reality
Tokyo-based startup Diver-X is also now launching a haptic glove. A successful Kickstarter campaign for "ContactGlove" reached the minimum sum of $197,305 shortly after its launch. The campaign raised around $244,394 by December 22, 2022, 28 days before the campaign closed.
The ContactGlove also provides tactile feedback when gripping. One special feature is its "micro coils," i.e., wire coils wound very tightly together. Their shape memory alloy enables finger elements to suddenly contract - or expand again. Ideally, this creates a feeling of pressure on the fingers, similar to the touch of real objects.
The technology can even emulate a fire button, trigger, and stick inputs of classic controllers. The manufacturer says, that ContactGlove is a revolutionary VR controller in the form of a glove, equipped with haptic feedback, high-precision hand tracking and button input just like conventional VR controllers.
However, an animation shows that the emulation does not resemble ordinary finger movements on controller buttons. Instead, similar gestures serve as inputs. When pressing a button, for example, the thumb taps the side of the angled index finger. There is a firm plastic surface there that imitates the feeling of a conventional button.
Haptic gloves for SteamVR
To hold a virtual analog stick, the thumb rests sideways on the middle finger. In this position, the user moves his hand in the air to move it up and down or turn it sideways.
A classic controller can also be seen in the trailer, with its handle magnetically attached to the inside of the glove. However, it is not part of the currently offered Kickstarter bundles.
For easy software integration, the makers provide native SteamVR support as well as programming tools for Unity and UnrealEngine. Precise room tracking is achieved via a SteamVR dongle in some of the available Kickstarter models. Vive or Tundra trackers can be attached to the back of the glove, for example.
Some Kickstarter bundles include the Tundra trackers. The Kickstarter price starts at around $494, but for models without haptics module and partly with Tundra trackers for an additional charge. So, these models are only for hand tracking with gloves, for example in social apps or for motion capturing. The models with haptic membranes start at $1,336.
The cheaper Early Bird offers are already all sold out. The inventors of the curious bed VR headset "HalfDive" are behind the project. Diver-X was also successful with it on Kickstarter. Afterwards, however, the company assessed the niche product's potential for success as too low and refunded the capital to the backers.