January 10, 2022 4 min read

Meta Reveals Haptic Glove PrototypePhoto Source: Engadget

 

Before 2021 ended, the Facebook Company changed its name to Meta. The decision to change their name is that it inclines with their goals of developing and bringing the metaverse to their users. Other brands and products under the Facebook Company will remain the same, but further updates will move in the same direction that reflects the company’s goal.

But aside from its current products and brands, Meta has also been developing new products designed to bring them closer to their goals. One of their most ambitious projects is the Meta haptic gloves. These haptic gloves are designed to provide haptic feedback to their user’s hands when they touch or interact with any objects in the digital world. It reproduces a sensation similar to when you’re holding an object or running your hand along a surface.

 

Meta Haptic Glove

Meta’s Reality Labs has been working on the Meta haptic gloves for seven years. But finally, Meta has introduced its prototype version alongside another wearable tech that the company is developing for VR and AR interaction.

The Meta haptics prototype gloves are built with 15 inflatable plastic pads called actuators. When worn by the user, the pads need to be arranged so they can fit along the wearer’s palm, the underside of the fingers, and the fingertips. The gloves will then act as the VR controller, allowing you to navigate in the meta world.

The gloves’ back features include small white markers that allow the cameras to track how the user’s fingers will move through the virtual space. It also has internal sensors to capture the wearer’s fingers bending.


Meta Haptic GlovePhoto Source: Android Central

The VR/AR Experience

Once used in a VR or AR gaming environment, the Meta haptic gloves deliver a sophisticated control system that adjusts if you’re creating pressure on different parts of your hands. For example, suppose you are touching a virtual object with your fingertips. In that case, you will also feel the sensation of the virtual object pressing into your skin. And suppose you are gripping an item in the virtual world. In that case, the actuators in your long finger will begin to stiffen, which creates a sensation of resistance. These sensations will work alongside the visual and audio presented in the virtual environment to produce the illusion of physical touch.


The Technology and Development

According to the developers at Reality Labs, the haptic gloves have a technology that draws on a new field of soft robotics. The units were designed by replacing their bulky motors with tiny air valves.

The haptic gloves team has been working on it since Meta acquired that Oculus VR startup back in 2014. It developed its first prototype in 2015, but it was just one finger with a single actuator.

In an interview with Verge.com, Reality Labs head Michael Abrash talked about the first prototype of the haptic gloves. His first experience was looking at a virtual plate from a VR headset. According to him, even with the single actuator, the prototype back then, the sensation was convincing as it is combined with the virtual image and the sound of rubbing rough ceramic.


Future Plans for Meta Haptic Gloves

Meta QuestPhoto Source: UploadVR

The development of simulated touch technology isn’t new. Companies have developed technology allowing users to feel simulated vibrations from touching something that isn’t visible in the real world. In fact, there are now wearable devices that can track the users’ hands and provide haptic sensations.

However, Meta wants to introduce haptic technology to the mass market -- something other companies haven’t done yet. Most haptic devices are only sold for military, industrial, or academic institutions. But Meta wants to be the first to produce a consumer-oriented VR system with haptic technology to support its total system. In fact, Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg is putting billions of dollars into developing and building a metaverse in the online world that integrates AR and VR. And if one day, Meta indeed launches a haptic glove system, it will surely support its current Quest products. It will also encourage other app developers to use it in their own apps.

In fact, Meta has already invited developers to create and collaborate to develop new games for their VR platform, Horizon Worlds. Although still in its beta stage, Zuckerberg has set aside10 million dollars to fund VR creators. Meta invites creators to build new experiences for Horizon Worlds to invite more people to try the virtual reality world.

Aside from that, Meta is also working with other game developers to create new VR and AR gaming experiences. Currently, they have an ongoing partnership with Vertigo Games, a famous video game developer that has published successful VR games in the market. Some of their games include the VR zombie-shooter game, Arizona Sunshine, and a VR music game that allows you to play air guitar titled Unplugged. It is not far that the development of haptic gloves alongside the updates on Meta Quest will enable future users to integrate the two units. This way, users will be capable of experiencing a whole new level of VR/AR gaming.



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