Soft Robotic Glove Lets Wearers Interact With VR Environments

Currently, VR user interfaces consist of remote-like devices that provide haptic feedback whenever a virtual object is touched. This, according to UC San Diego researcher Jurgen Schulze, just isn’t realistic. Elaborating, he claims that, “You can’t touch anything, or feel resistance when you’re pushing a button.”

Playing the piano in VR using the prototype gloves. (📷: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

To help overcome this limitation, a team of UCSD Jacobs engineers are using soft robotic component called “McKibben muscles” to simulate tactile feedback via air pressure in a set of gloves. Connected to a circuit board, these gloves work by applying tension to specific fingers when inflated, mimicking the forces that the user would encounter in the VR environment.

Soft robotic components in the glove individually inflate or deflate to mimic the forces that the user would encounter in the VR environment. (📷: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

The system — which also employs a Leap Motion sensor for detecting the position and movement of a wearer’s hands — was described as “mesmerizing” and “amazing” when used to play a virtual piano.

You can read more about the project here, and see a demo of it below!