Meta, formerly known as Facebook, made an exciting announcement: a glove. It’s a haptic glove lined with tiny motors that use bursts of air to mimic the sense of touch, and it looks like a wearable nightmare. Though, For seven years, it’s been quietly working on one of its most ambitious projects yet: a haptic glove that reproduces sensations like grasping an object or running your hand along a surface. But Meta’s not letting the glove out of its Reality Labs research division, the company is showing it off for the first time today, and it sees the device alongside another wearable tech as the future of VR and AR interaction.
Meta’s haptics prototype is a glove lined with around 15 ridged and inflatable plastic pads known as actuators. The pads are arranged to fit along the wearer’s palm, their fingertips, and the underside of their fingers. Also, the glove acts as a VR controller. The back features small white markers that let cameras track how the fingers move through space, and also it’s got internal sensors that capture how the wearer’s fingers are bending. When you put on the glove and enter a VR or AR experience, an advanced control system adjusts the level of inflation, creating pressure on different parts of your hand.
If you’re touching a virtual object with your fingertips, you’ll feel the sensation of that object pressing into your skin and if you grip a virtual item, the long finger actuators will stiffen, creating a sensation of resistance. Those sensations work along the side of visual and audio prompts to produce the illusion of physical touch.
The tech draws on the relatively new field of soft robotics, replacing bulky motors with tiny air valves. Meta has been working on soft robotics nearly since it acquired the Oculus VR startup in 2014 and also it developed its first prototype in 2015.