Swiss scientists have developed an innovative ultra-light glove which allows users to feel and manipulate virtual objects.
Called DextrES, the glove – which was jointly developed by EPFL and ETH Zurich – weighs less than 8 grams per finger and provides top-notch haptic feedback.
It can generate up to 40 Newtons of holding force on each finger with just 200 Volts and only a few milliWatts of power. It also has the potential to run on a very small battery.
This, along with the glove’s low form factor (only 2 mm thick), offers users unprecedented level of precision and freedom of movement.
DextrES is made of nylon with thin elastic metal strips running over the fingers. The strips are separated by a thin insulator.
When the user’s fingers come into contact with a virtual object, the controller applies a voltage difference between the metal strips causing them to stick together via electrostatic attraction – this produces a braking force that blocks the finger’s or thumb’s movement.
Once the voltage is removed, the metal strips glide smoothly and the user can once again move his fingers freely.
The glove’s hardware was developed by EPFL at its Microcity campus in Neuchâtel, and the virtual reality system was created by ETH Zurich, which also carried out the user tests.
The next step will be to scale up the device and apply it to other parts of the body using conductive fabric.
“Gamers are currently the biggest market, but there are many other potential applications – especially in healthcare, such as for training surgeons. The technology could also be applied in augmented reality,” intoned Herbert Shea, head of EPFL’s Soft Transducers Laboratory (LMTS).
Image, video and content: Marc Delachaux/EPFL