The future of virtual reality took a step closer with the
announcement of the imminent release of haptic gloves from Haptx. While there
have been virtual reality enabled gloves for a while, these have been
relatively clunky, offering only basic controls to virtual reality users, and
relying on awkward vibration responses by way of physical feedback to players.
They have traditionally been used more as controllers rather than actively
enhancing the sensations of being immersed within the imaginary environment
created by the footage or game, but this is set to change.
The gloves at present are big, bulky and heavy (although not as heavy as they seem on first sight), but the quality of feedback received through the sensors is superlative. Reviewers marvelled at being able to walk through a wheat harvest and touch the individual grains within an ear of the grass, being able to discern the tickle of a spider walking over the back of their hand (not ideal for the unwary arachnophobe!) and even the sensation of being nuzzled by a dog or a sheep. There was little lag between sight and sensation, making the feeling very real and authentic.
Each glove contains an impressive 130 sensors and it is operated using microfluidic technology – think hydraulics gone very, very small – to create the realistic responses.
The gloves alone will revolutionise some industries – think of training in bomb disposal, for example, or in any of a number of medical fields, the possibilities are almost endless! – but it is in gaming and entertainment that the big long term money will lie. Investors are sure to pour money into this field, with the aim of reducing the size of the gloves, and increasing the sensitivity and number of the sensors even more.Ultimately, it is almost certain that Haptx’s technology will find its way into a full body suit, the like of which has – thus far – only been theorised. Loaded with sensors and intelligent fabric that can increase or reduce body temperature, the full suit could well become the best way to enjoy virtual reality, offering a fully immersive experience that the human brain may well struggle to separate from actual reality!