Awesome Stuff: Feeling Virtual Reality

True virtual reality — the kind we’ve been envisioning now for decades — is inching ever closer to, well, reality. But while most of the focus is new devices that let you see a virtual world, there are some people out there working on the other senses to round out the simulated experience. This week, we’re looking at Gloveone, a haptic feedback system that wants to do for touch what devices like the Oculus Rift are doing for sight.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gloveone/gloveone-feel-virtual-reality/widget/video.html

The Good

I don’t think I need to sell anyone on the idea of fully immersive virtual reality, which is a sci-fi dream every bit as potent as flying cars and hoverboards, but one that’s looking a lot more attainable. And then there’s the idea of a glove-based input and feedback device, which remains intriguing even to those who were burned in 1989. So what can I say? The Gloveone is just cool. Even basic haptic feedback has proven a boon to mobile devices and game controllers, and those systems don’t begin to approach the complexity and detail of the Gloveone’s, so I’m excited to see what can be done with the technology.

The Bad

The Gloveone isn’t likely to be many people’s first foray into virtual reality. It would be great to use as part of a complete multi-sensory setup, but by itself it may not be all that exciting. The ability to interact with objects on regular screens will surely have some applications, but it’s alongside something like the Oculus Rift or Microsoft Hololens that the device will truly shine, and those aren’t exactly household staples just yet. But, ultimately, that isn’t the point: the creators surely know their direct consumer appeal is currently limited, but they are banking on a future where virtual reality setups become more and more common, and filling in an important gap.

The Future

And that’s what the Gloveone’s really about, and what makes it awesome: the (potentially) coming VR future. The creators are putting a huge focus on developers: the developer site is already up with documentation, runtimes, SDKs and a package for Unity3D (with Unreal Engine compatibility as a stretch goal, which could lead to some exciting games). This community is where the Gloveone can really shine and where most of the attention is likely to come from for the next little while, as forward-thinking developers start doing interesting and unexpected things with the technology. The truth is, there probably isn’t much reason for the average person to buy something like this right now — but given a bit of time and creative innovation, the Gloveone may prove to be the prototype for the next generation of haptic devices.

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