Technology

The glove opens the virtual world of Facebook


The glove with the ability to reproduce tactile will be an important part of Facebook’s plan to develop the virtual universe.

The Verge believes that Meta (formerly Facebook) is making transitions into the field of virtual reality and augmented reality. However, the company has been quietly developing one of its most ambitious projects, a glove that recreates the tactile experience of holding and touching objects over the past seven years.

Meta has never revealed anything about this device, but the product will soon be introduced and become an important part of AR and VR interactive technology in the virtual universe.

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Close-up of Meta’s tactile reproduction glove. Photo: Reality Labs.

The prototype presented was a glove lined with about 15 inflatable plastic pads called actuators. The paddings are arranged to fit the inside of the wearer’s palm and fingers. The glove can also act as a VR controller. The back of the device is marked with white dots for the camera to track the movements and position of the finger in space.

When wearing gloves and experiencing VR, AR, a sophisticated control system adjusts the level of actuation, putting pressure on different parts of the hand. Users can feel the impact when touching an object in the virtual world with their fingertips. When the user grips tightly, the actuator will stiffen, creating a feeling of reaction. These effects combine with audio and visual cues, creating the illusion of physical touch.

The device is developed based on soft robotic technology, using small airbags to replace bulky engines. Meta has been working on this system since it acquired Oculus VR in 2014. The first prototype of the product, a powered-only one-finger glove, appeared in 2015.

“I looked at my finger on the plate, heard a scratching sound there and felt the vibrations. It’s like I’ve slipped my finger on a real porcelain dish,” shared Michael Abrash, Head of Reality Labs at Meta.

Tactile simulation is not a new technology. VR experiences with the vibration of the controller can also make users feel like they are touching something. In addition, many companies are already working on wearables to track hands or create tactile simulators. Some are also equipped with a temperature sensor.

However, most manufacturers of tactile simulators sell specialized equipment for the military, large companies or research centers. In contrast, Meta creates an end-user-oriented Quest VR system. Besides, this company is spending billions of dollars to build the metaverse virtual world, integrating VR and AR.

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Glove prototypes need to be improved upon when mass production is possible. Photo: Reality Labs.

Meta’s Reality Labs envisions this glove as one of the control methods for VR glasses and headsets in the future. Some other solutions being studied include electromechanical control or EMG, a system that reads neural signals.

However, the product still has many barriers to mass production and reach consumers. The team needed to increase the density of the air bags to provide a more realistic sense of feedback. In addition, the current prototype is too large, with many complicated wires, making it difficult to use.

In addition, the manufacturer also has to fine-tune so that the glove can fit the hands of many users. At the same time, the device will face privacy challenges when it collects a lot of biometric data of the wearer.

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Why has Metaverse become the new ‘fever’ of the technology world?

The parent company of the popular social network Facebook has strongly changed its name to Meta – reflecting its ambition towards the Internet metaverse world (virtual universe) and beyond the scope of the current social network.

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