Using soft robotics technology, engineers are making light, flexible gloves that enable users to feel tactile feedback while intercommunicating with virtual reality (VR) environments. They have used those to naturalistically imitate the feeling of playing a virtual piano keyboard.
The research is still at the prototype stage. Presently, the VR user interface has remote-like devices which vibrate when a virtual object or surface is touched by a user.
Though other research industries and teams have designed gloves with VR interfaces, those are made from heavy metals and are bulky. The new glove has a soft exoskeleton containing soft robotic muscles which render it much lighter and easier to use.
The system has a Leap Motion sensor which perceives the spot and motion of the user's hands; a custom fluidic control board which directs the movements of the gloves; and soft robotic elements in the glove which individually deflate or inflate to imitate the impacts experienced by the user in the VR environment.
Currently, efforts are being taken to make the glove inexpensive, more portable and less bulky. They would also like to altogether eliminate the Leap Motion device to make it more compact.