Virtual reality lacks a good hand feel. The VR world is only as cool as the things in that world, but if a user can’t realistically feel those things, what’s the point? Enter Dexta Robotics’ Dexmo, the haptic, force-feedback exoskeleton gloves that have the potential to make the virtual feel physical.
Dexmo promises that users can “touch the digital world” with their gloves. That means distinguishing different objects by size, shape, and rigidity (a crowbar will feel different than a stress ball, for example).
The glove works by using tiny mechanical muscles to apply inverse force on each finger. It pulls your finger, which makes it feel similar to the object being in your hands. Developers can make different objects have different feels. Users can pick up a glass of wine in VR and have the sensation of picking up a real piece of stemware. Unfortunately, there likely won’t be a technology that can make VR wine have the same mouthfeel as meatspace wine.
Dexmo isn’t in the consumer market, and doesn’t have a timeline of when that could happen. It won’t be hard for developers to make their own objects to feel around using Dexmo, though.
“Any developer should be able to pick up Dexmo in a few hours after reading the documents,” Aler Gu, CEO of Dexta Robotics, told Road to VR. “We built some Unity plugins that is somewhat similar to the Vive. Developers can just pull out a pair of hands and our grasping algorithm will take in place and automatically handle the grasping for them. Frankly all they need to do is apply the colliders and stiffness to the objects.”
Even if Dexmo never makes it to the general public, the idea behind it is crucial for VR to become a serious learning tool for occupations like doctors and astronauts. Lessons in VR can be thrown away if said lessons don’t translate to the real world. Knowing the feel of an object can help in that translation.
Dexmo, whether it makes it or not, is just as important as a concept as it is a product. We could all use a little more hand feel in the aggressive, ever changing world of virtual reality.