The metaverse is just around the corner. More and more companies are joining this idea and creating their own — but to enter, we will need technology both to see and to interact. Meta is developing its own haptic gloves to feel and touch everything in the metaverse.
Meta has been secretly working on a haptic glove for seven years that reproduces the sensations of gripping an object or surface in virtual reality. Now a division of the Reality Labs company has demonstrated its developments for the first time.
The prototype is a glove with approximately 15 ribbed inflatable plastic pads. They are positioned to fit the palm and fingers of the user. The glove also acts as a virtual reality controller. On its back, there are small white markers that allow cameras to track the movement of fingers in space, as well as internal sensors that record their flexion.
When the user puts on the glove and enters virtual or augmented reality mode, the control system adjusts the inflation rate of the pads, applying pressure to different parts of the hand. This is how the touch effects are recreated. They are accompanied by visual and audio signals, creating the illusion of physical touch.
The technology builds on a relatively new field of soft robotics, replacing bulky motors with tiny air valves. Meta has been working on the glove since it acquired startup Oculus VR in 2014.
As Meta’s experiments with haptic gloves show, as that future phase approaches, it is still a long way off, and there is still a lot of development work ahead of us before we can facilitate more immersive digital engagement, at least the level that the people are arguing.