This VR glove startup wants you to touch virtual worlds

Virtual reality lets you see and explore fantasy worlds. But with today's technology, you can't actually touch or fee...

Posted: Jan. 11, 2018 11:22 AM
Updated: Jan. 11, 2018 11:22 AM

Virtual reality lets you see and explore fantasy worlds. But with today's technology, you can't actually touch or feel anything in them.

Startup Sense Glove hopes to change that.

At the CES 2018 tech conference in Las Vegas, the Netherlands-based company showed off a 3D-printed prototype for a VR glove that lets you pick up different objects in virtual worlds while also wearing a headset.

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CNN Tech tested out the company's spaceship and classroom virtual reality experiences at CES, which used a VR headset made by Taiwan's HTC.

In the spaceship, I was able to wander around and teleport to different areas. With the prototype glove on my hand, I picked up objects like a pen, coffee mug and several glass jars.

When I picked up the first glass jar, I squeezed it so tightly that it shattered. The glove also vibrated, which is what Sense Glove has programmed it to do when you pick up something that would be sharp in real life.

In the classroom, I could pick up and squeeze squishy balls and throw them into the abyss or stack colorful blocks on top of each other. While you can't yet feel the texture of the item, you feel resistance when picking up a heavier item, like one of the glass jars.

However, the technology is still in its infancy, and the demo had some hiccups. For example, there was an issue with calibration because my hands are smaller than the size of the prototype. The screen showed my fingers bent in weird positions, even though they were straight in real life.

Another issue was that you couldn't feel any resistance when picking up lighter items like a pen.

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"This is 1% of the possibility," Sense Glove CEO Gijs den Butter said, referring to the company's current technology. "Our vision is definitely to feel the shape, density and texture of objects."

The VR glove has broader implications beyond just gaming, too.

For example, the company's current clients include manufacturers. These companies could use the tech to teach employees how to do maintenance on expensive equipment virtually first.

"If you have a $5 million machine that produces chips, you don't want to train people on the actual machine," den Butter said.

VR experiences would be custom made for individual businesses in partnership with virtual reality developers.

The Sense Gloves are available for pre-order now and will begin shipping in July. The wired version of the gloves cost $1,200, while the wireless models costs $1,500.

The startup is part of a growing trend of VR gloves. Several other companies such as Dexmo and HaptX have also unveiled similar products.

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