Haptic feedback gloves are typically bulky, heavy, and power hungry, which limits both practicality and affordability. But researchers from EPFL and ETH Zurich developed a 2mm thick haptic feedback glove that weighs less than 8 grams per finger. The glove can exert a 40 newton holding force on each finger, and only consumes a few milliwatts of power. The glove works by applying a voltage difference between flexible metal strips separated by insulators. The prototype is powered by a cable, but researchers say it could easily run on a lightweight battery.
In this joint research project, the hardware was developed by EPFL at its Microcity campus in Neuchatel, and the virtual reality system was created by ETH Zurich, which also carried out the user tests. "Our partnership with the EPFL lab is a very good match. It allows us to tackle some of the longstanding challenges in virtual reality at a pace and depth that would otherwise not be possible," adds Hilliges. 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," says Shea.