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Playing a piano in the air. HiTech virtual reality

Haptic glove powered by artificial muscles brings sensations to virtual reality. Credit: UC San Diego

Robotics researchers at San Diego UC university have announced the development of a soft glove that can provide (artificial) tactile sensation in a virtual reality world.

They demonstrated it by playing a virtual piano, seen through VR goggles, providing the sensation of touching the keys with your fingers (watch the video clip).

The gloves are engineered with soft muscles, McKibben muscle, based on pneumatic actuators used to inflate or deflate the muscle thus providing a quite accurate pressure (tactile) sensation to the hand.

Current haptic devices are quite cumbersome and although this glove is not anywhere like a usual glove it represents a dramatic reduction in size. It still needs to be tethered to a pumping machine to actuate the muscles movements (the actuation is controlled by a computer in synch with the VR system).

The glove “exoskeleton” has been 3D printed.

Researchers are now working on the miniaturisation of the various components.

They are foreseeing applications to enrich a virtual reality experience, including sectors like surgery and manufacturing. Provided the cost of such a device can decrease significantly, gamers would also love to use them!

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