Experiencing haptic wearables at the 2022 Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in VR gaming in a tactile and exciting way – my whole body could touch and feel digital objects as if they were real. That was wild and then, with some tactile wearables for my hands, things got weird.
While trying on the Teslasuit – a full-body haptic suit that was the most immersive VR device I’ve ever used – I also wore the Teslasuit gloves. Much like the full body Teslasuit, Teslasuit Gloves are designed to work with the best VR headsets to make experiences more real using haptics.
To do this, he borrows elements from the Teslasuit’s design. The glove has electrodes placed against each of your fingertips that can emit a current from 1mA to 80mA in different patterns to stimulate your muscles and mimic real sensations.
The glove takes things up a notch with a new trick: force feedback, which works in tandem with its motion tracking features. Using an exoskeleton, the glove can impose some mechanical resistance and restrict finger movements. When you pick up a virtual object — say, an apple — your fingers won’t be able to move into the space the fruit would occupy if you were actually holding it. You are forced to hold it.
Additionally, the glove can use its exoskeleton to manipulate the movement of its hands, giving control of its movement to someone else.
To get a sense of how force feedback might work, I had to give a glove to another user while a feature called mirroring was turned on. One of us would be given control at a time and whoever was in charge could move their hand freely; the other person would feel the exoskeleton gently forcing their hand to copy what the controller was doing with theirs.
Using this tool, I could give a thumbs-up, grab an imaginary bottle of water, and shake hands with someone who wasn’t there. This kind of technology, while a little scary at first, can pave the way for immersive scenes from video games or VR movies that let you experience what the protagonist is going through.
For now, though, Teslasuit gloves are being designed with teaching in mind. CEO Sergei Nossoff explained that one application could be training new surgeons, letting them watch while a specialist performs a complicated operation so that newbies can get an idea of what they should do if faced with similar situations.
Listening to this example, it was easy to imagine gloves being used in reverse, where an inexperienced surgeon could be controlled by a specialist many miles away. Although we are still a little far from that.
The Teslasuit gloves felt more like a work in progress than the Teslasuit itself, but they were no less exciting. The potential to bring VR objects to life was clear to see – and if I can wear the gloves again, I’d love to play Half-Life Alyx or Resident Evil 4 VR in them. Or maybe something where the objects I pick up aren’t so scary – maybe Vacation Simulator.