Researchers at the EPFL and ETH Zurich in Switzerland have created DextrES, an ultra-light glove that allows users to feel and move virtual objects.
The system is made of nylon and thin elastic metal strips separated by an electric insulator that runs over the fingers. When the user reaches out for a virtual object, a controller applies voltage to the metal strips, which stops or slows the user’s fingers via electrostatic attraction. The glove is currently tethered, but it could soon be battery-operated as it doesn't draw much power even though it reportedly provides incredible haptic feedback.
The design doesn’t use any cables or fluidics, so it's not as bulky as other options on the market. The glove only weighs 8 grams per finger and is 2 mm thick. It can generate 40 Newtons of holding force in each finger using only 200 volts and a few milliwatts.
EPFL created the hardware, and ETH Zurich not only developed the VR system, but also performed user tests, such as theVR manipulation and grasping tasks. The test subjects said the sensations were accurate as they moved things like a book, coffee cup, highlighter and a croissant.
Next, the researchers want to take the tech and build a complete suit for virtual reality environments. The suit would certainly target the gaming industry and we sprint towards the dystopian future in Ready Player One, but it could also be used for professional development, like training surgeons.