One of the big problems with virtual reality is that you can't actually touch any of the objects that are being beamed to your headset, ruining the immersion factor somewhat. Thankfully researchers have developed a prototype that could help to solve that problem.
Developed at Rice University in Houston, the Hands Omni is a glove that uses inflating air bladders in each finger tip to simulate the feeling of touch as the user grips onto something in the virtual world.
Aside from the ring finger and little finger, which are linked, the bladders all inflate and deflate independently from one another to mimic the feel of in-game objects. Each glove is wireless, to provide a full range of motion, and only weighs 350 grams.
Sadly we don't know any more about the technology involved in the gloves, because the research was funded by a Houston-based game company who wants it to be kept quiet. That being said, the team have said that the hardware is fairly simple, and it should be easy for games developers to implement it in their games.
Of course this isn't the first time people have tried to work around the problem of holding things in game. Various companies have developed controllers for use with virtual reality systems, including Valve and Sony, and others have created glove-like devices as well. The difference with Hands Omni is that it's actually trying to simulate touching from the real world, rather than using something vibrational force feedback. Plus it doesn't look like you've strapped your hand into one of Jigsaw's traps, which is always a plus.
Don't get your hopes up just yet, though. The team claim that the tech isn't ready to be sold to the public, but they have proven that it works. It might never make it to market, or who knows maybe someone else will beat them to it. Whatever happens, we can all hope something comes along. [Wired]