When I put on a haptic VR glove for the first time in my life, I was able to do the impossible. Maybe that sounds like a line you’d hear in “Ready Player One” or a cheesy Disney movie, but it’s the truth.
Inside Kickr Design, one of the fastest growing product design, engineering, prototyping and manufacturing startups in the Southeast, a small team of young men live, breathe and sleep VRgluv, an in-house startup developing force feedback gloves compatible with any virtual reality headset on the market. This is where the VR magic happened.
VRgluv CEO Chris Taylor, a mechanical engineer and winner of the Georgia Tech InVenture Prize in 2013, slipped their wire-free, battery-powered prototype on my hand and an HTC Vive over my head and I was suddenly in space.
With VRgluv, I could touch and feel items, gripping and moving them like you can in the real world. But the experience went way beyond touching things that weren’t there.
I pulverized rocks into dust with my fingers. I stacked blocks on top of each other and could feel the tiny vibration of tapping one wooden block against another, just like in childhood. I played on a chess board that wasn’t even there, and then bopped the pieces around in midair like an astronaut with an “anti-gravity” setting.
After that, the team turned my hand into a tiny one (like the ones you see in memes on Twitter) that had even more strength and grip than my normal-sized virtual one. Sharing a high-five in the virtual world is a completely new definition of “cool.”
The team told me I was the first media representative to try-out the demo, but I’m not going to be the only one with a VRgluv experience for long.
VRgluv will be sponsoring the Startup Chowdown, a community lunch event at the Atlanta Tech Village, at 12 p.m. Friday and offering free public demos to a limited number of guests. Taylor also said the team has finalized the hardware of the glove, and after making a few tweaks to the software, hopes to bring the gloves to consumers soon for a market price of $400.
The team has moved faster than any other hardware company he’s seen, Taylor said, after completing the 20th iteration of the glove in just a year and a half.
“I think VR and technology is at a really interesting place right now where someone in the next five years is going to invent the technology of the future,” he said. “I really love working on new technology, so why not us?”
The team, made up of three fairly recent college graduates in their 20s, said they often draw shock and awe from developers and competitors because of their age and how far along the tech is. CTO Derek Kearney said he once gave a demo of the gloves to a man in his 50s who looked at him and said he wanted to be Kearney when he grew up.
“I think that honestly for the people that we meet in person, it’s always a great experience, and people are really, really supportive but I think generally some people are in a little bit of disbelief that a company with three somewhat recent graduates are actually doing this,” Chief Marketing Officer Steven Fullerton said.