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This creepy VR glove is creepier because it was made by Mark Zuckerberg

The gloves use inflatable pads to simulate touch.

meta virtual reality haptic glove prototype on a right hand
Image: Meta Reality Labs Research

Part of Meta’s metaverse ambitions also extends to simulating physical interactions while in the virtual world. To that end, they’ve been working on some cyberpunk VR gloves with haptic feedback that simulates touching virtual objects.

Now, they’re still in very early development stages, even though they’ve been working on them for seven years.

Instead of using the type of vibrational haptics you’re used to in your smartphone, these gloves use inflatable pads spaced around the palm, fingertips, and underside of the fingers. Inflating those pads creates pressure on your hands, simulating the touch of whatever virtual object you’re fondling.

The VR glove also acts as a virtual reality controller and has markers on its back that cameras can track its position in real space, while software translates that into the virtual realm. Right now, they use tens of pneumatic actuators, but the team wants to increase that to thousands, so they have finer control over simulating surfaces like fur.

That fine-grained control from a VR glove could mean that doing things like typing on a keyboard in VR could feel every bit as real as the keyboard I’m typing on right now (an HHKB Hybrid, if anyone’s interested). The real challenge is getting the sensation close enough that our brains suspend disbelief long enough to use the virtual object. That seems a ways off yet, but it’ll come.

While the tech is undoubtedly interesting, there might be some trouble ahead for Meta. A Seattle-based startup, HaptX, says that Meta’s gloves “appear to be substantively identical to HaptX’s patented technology.”

GeekWire reached out to Meta for a comment, and the official response was to “decline to respond to HaptX’s assertions.” For their part, HaptX appears amenable to working with Meta in a “fair and equitable arrangement.” Your move, Meta.

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