Oculus Patents Hint it's Working on Haptic VR Gloves

By Tom Pritchard on at

When it comes to virtual reality the whole 'immersion' thing is kind of ruined by the fact we have to use controllers to do anything. Some feel more natural than others, and still-unreleased devices take things a bit further, but two new patents from Oculus hint that the company is working on proper haptic feedback gloves.

Both patents are similar, and describe "tendons" inside the gloves that can simulate a more realistic sense of virtual touch by tensing up and relaxing based on what you're doing. It's not quite the same as holding a real thing, though, since your hands can sense real objects from the pressure in your fingers. These designs, however, work in the opposite direction, running alongside the back of your hand and offering resistance to your own movements using the haptic feedback mechanisms. That way it mimics the feeling that you're touching a real object.

Digital Trends describes it as like having string tied to the back of your hands, pulling at you and making the action of clenching your hands together that extra bit difficult. While in the real world you'd be able to see that effect with your own eyes, coupling it with the input from the rest of the VR system means you'll experience it differently - almost as though you're tricking your brain into believing it's actually holding that virtual object.

I'd have to see it to believe it can work in practice, but if Oculus can manage it then it's going to change the way people interact with VR. Though that obviously comes with a new problem of making sure there's enough available content to take advantage of the new systems.

This isn't the first thing we've heard about haptic VR gloves, even from Oculus itself. Mark Zuckerberg has talked about the company's work on the technology in the past, and various third parties have been working on their own solutions - solutions that include full body suits.

Patents don't mean a product is definitely on the way, but since we have seen examples of Oculus's VR gloves in the past alongside the fact they're an obvious step forward in producing proper immersion, it's fair to say Oculus is probably working on something. How long it'll be before they arrive is anybody's guess, though. [US PTO 1 | 2 via Digital Trends]


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