Dexta Robotics Making Haptic Exoskeleton Gloves that Lets VR Push Back
Dexta Robotics is starting what seems to be the next step for immersive experience and being able to reach the virtual world. Their new Drexmo virtual reality gloves are supposed to create a form of resistance to the wearer with respect to their interaction with the Virtual reality environment. Dexta Robotics founder, Aler Gu talks about Dexmo’s progress in this guestpost.
Aler Gu is the founder and CEO of Dexta Robotics, a passionate roboticist and a researcher from University of Cambridge. He wrote a paper on hand VR interaction which got published in the ACM CHI 2016 journal. Dexta Robotics holds a U.S. patent and four Chinese patents on their haptics technology. Dexta specializes in hand VR interaction and hand force feedback. Their main project is Dexmo, a consumer-friendly hand exoskeleton ideal for use in VR.
Virtual Reality is what everybody is thinking about and the progress of immersive technology which stimulates sound and sight is quite promising. However, the immersion experience is not complete without touch. Interacting with and feeling virtual objects is reaching out of the normal digital world in another. Large loaded motors have made true force feedback possible in a lab. Drexmo was designed to only make force feedback light, affordable and workable.
The main thing is binary force feedback. In the exoskeleton, joints are locked and unlocked by intelligently controlled slider mechanisms and this technique provides force feedback at the individual finger level in VR. The tech also captures hand motion in 3D space. The combination is satisfying, portable, wireless and affordable. In this context, binary refers to two states (on/off) of the force feedback unit (FFU) on each finger exoskeleton. Users can move their fingers when the force feedback unit is in the off state and Drexmo tracks their finger movement. Drexmo also does not need the motor to take all the torque the user applies unlike other feedback devices which is why Dexta developed another Dexmo prototype with variable stiffness to cover all areas of possibilities.
To make this possible, Dexta has a granted and sealed US patent for the technology and SIGCHI has published our research. We’re excited about the progress we’ve made and the video below shows what we are trying to achieve and how our technology works. We’re in the process of bringing a refined binary force feedback with this technology and knowledge. The video at the top of this article demonstrates impedance control stiffness adjustments which this approach relies on.
The motor is controlled to act as a spring and the stiffness of the “spring” which is controlled by the application adjusts electronically in real-time. In collaborative robotics, a field that focuses on human augmentation through robot apparatus this control method is standard. Although Japanese research teams had ideas that were similar but the ideas were never pushed it to the market. Dexta takes the lead in making this to be applied to a commercialized product for hand exoskeletons.
The question remains how this force feedback technology affects your VR experience? In the virtual environment, the technology makes you feel the difference between elastic and rigid virtual objects. You’ll be able to hold a gun and feel a realistic “clicky’ level of resistance from the trigger. Or better put, you will be able to pick up a virtual object and discern what it is made of.
The new versions of our Dexmo glove will bring new potential to virtual reality. While other evolving virtual reality advancements in visuals and audio continue to bring us closer to the digital divide, Dexta is making moves to help us reach across it in the near future.