2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
Swiss engineers have created a glove that allows people to experience physical contact in virtual reality thanks to electrostatic brakes at the bends of the fingers and piezoelectric actuators at their ends. Experiments have shown that the glove improves the accuracy of manipulating objects in virtual reality, according to the authors of the article presented at the UIST 2018 conference in Berlin.
Virtual reality helmets have already reached a fairly high level of development and engineers continue to improve them. For example, in the last year, several manufacturers, including HTC and Oculus, have introduced standalone VR headsets that perform all data processing using an integrated chip. Nevertheless, despite the sufficiently high level of graphics, while all serial devices of virtual reality have a drawback that limits the feeling of "immersion" in the virtual world - they cannot qualitatively imitate the physical contact of a person with virtual objects.
Manufacturers of serial VR headsets are trying to compensate for the lack of real physical contact with vibration in the controllers, but it only remotely resembles real contact. Along with this, there are many research projects that use more complex principles and designs for greater realism. Often, engineers create VR gloves that allow even the rigidity of virtual objects to be conveyed, but almost always they have a massive and uncomfortable actuator mechanism.
A team of engineers from the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne and the Swiss Higher Technical School of Zurich, led by Otmar Hilliges, have created a much more compact glove for simulating physical contact in virtual reality.
An ordinary glove is suitable as the basis of the device. Two electrostatic brakes are attached to her thumb and forefinger with Velcro. They are two metal strips, one of which is covered with a thin dielectric layer. The principle of the brake is that in the normal state the strips slide freely relative to each other, but when a voltage is applied, opposite charges on the two plates cause electrostatic attraction. Engineers have shown that one such brake can, when activated, hold a weight of two kilograms.
How the electrostatic brake works
The brake allows you to create resistance to the movement of the hand and create the feeling that the user is squeezing the object with a certain stiffness. In addition, for realism, the engineers added piezoelectric actuators to the Velcro at the ends of the fingers, which are activated for a short time during contact with a virtual object and simulate touching it. The engineers also attached visual markers to the glove, allowing the motion capture system to match hand movements and the position of virtual objects.
VR Gloves Elements
Engineers tested the device on volunteers who were asked to perform several types of actions, including moving a virtual cylinder through a bending pipe and throwing a flying disc. The results of the experiment showed that the use of a glove improves the accuracy of these tasks.
In the past, engineers have developed many other devices to simulate physical contact in virtual reality, using different principles of operation. For example, German engineers proposed using electrical muscle stimulation to simulate collisions with virtual walls, and Samsung developers have created a prototype VR helmet, which, thanks to electrical stimulation, deceives the vestibular apparatus and conveys the sensation of movement. In addition to electrostimulation, there are developments that use more familiar principles, such as a cube with propellers that transmit force to the hand, or an inflatable jacket that simulates blows to the body.