Hand 'exoglove' lets you touch a virtual world

A Chinese robotics company claims to have invented an "exoglove" that provides force feedback to let you touch and feel digital objects.

Dexta Robotics

For a virtual world to be truly immersive, it would ideally include a full sensory experience, not just the eyes-and-ears experience offered by a VR headset. Joining the league of companies looking to make a virtual world more real is Chinese company Dexta, with an "exoglove" called Dexmo -- designed to motion-capture your hand movements and let you feel objects in a digital environment.

The device, currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, looks like some species of bizarre, sci-fi torture implement and fits over the wearer's hand, strapping around the palm and fingertips. The lower-end model, the Dexmo Classic, captures 11 degrees of hand motion -- three degrees of movement for the thumb, and split and bend for the four fingers. An IMU sensor also allows the device to orient along the X, Y and Z axes.

The Dexmo F2 is where it starts veering into the tactile territory. The F2 provides force feedback -- that is, physical feedback as a type of force -- to the tips of the thumb and index finger. This means that, when you touch an object in-game, you'll feel a corresponding pressure on your fingertip. This is achieved by braking the joint of that finger on the glove, which creates force on the fingertip.

And its applications aren't limited to gaming, either -- although its most obvious use would be paired with Oculus VR.

Dexta Robotics

"Dexmo can be used for controlling a robotic hand, also providing you with a better sense of presence by simulating a force feedback when an object is hit; or controlling a robotic arm; or something a little be more advanced, like controlling double robotic arms performing a remote bomb disposal task," the Dexta Robotics team wrote.

The team also showed how the glove could be used to hack remote-controlled devices; used to control smart home devices, such as lighting; adapted for creating art and music using gesture controls; and even translating sign language.

Each Dexmo unit will come with some out-of-the-box software for users to experiment with; although at this stage, it will appeal more to developers and programmers, gamers will be able to benefit from the crowdfunding campaign also. For developers, raw data and an SDK will be available.

The Dexmo Classic is currently being offered for a limited-time Early Bird reward on pledges of $65 ($75 when numbers run out), and the Dexmo F2 for $179. Head over to the Dexmo Kickstarter page for more information and videos on how it works, and to pledge your support.