New VR gloves allow you to touch the virtual world

Virtual reality can be almost indistinguishable from the real world - but the illusion will disappear, if you reach out and try to touch something inside the simulation. Engineers have long wanted to correct this annoying misunderstanding, and now, it seems, they have a way out. They became new gloves that mimic a touch of virtual objects - and all this without the bulky and awkward machinery that usually comes with the kit.

Existing tactile-sensing VR gloves achieve their effect through vibration. However, the user cannot feel the shape of the object, the sensations themselves are far from realistic, and together with the gloves he has to move the “appendage” of batteries and fans. In the new one, the researchers wanted to move away from these archaisms and create a lightweight headset that would not limit the user. It should be comfortable to wear and, in addition, it should provide a truly realistic connection between our world and the world of digital simulations.

It all started with a piece of soft silicone, equipped with sensors that track hand movements. These sensors are connected to another system in the form of small silicone bubbles in which electrodes are embedded. The electrodes, in turn, provide a feedback effect with the user's fingertips.

For the experiment, a team of engineers conducted a test simulation with a virtual chessboard. When a virtual “hand” touched an object, the software prompted the glove to generate electricity, as a result of which the fingertips of the glove were filled with air and thereby deceived our receptors, creating the illusion of an object with a certain shape. The work itself was published on the Scientific Reports portal.

It is worth noting that the entire device, including the battery and the chain attached to the belt around the user's wrist, weighs about 1/6 kilograms, that is, about the same as an average-sized apple. So far, this is only a laboratory prototype, but its potential is huge. Researchers suggest that these gloves can be used to interact with a variety of immersive VR software - from video games to training simulators and creative workshops.

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