WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
The best technology is invisible and frictionless to use, and virtual reality still has a way to go before the experience is simple and seamless, but these gloves could help bring more users into the sector.
Bringing a user’s hands into a Virtual Reality (VR) world has been a pretty logical move for ambitious companies in the space like Facebook’s Oculus, after all, keyboards and mice don’t make sense in this new world, and more conventional physical “point and click” controllers might make sense for first person shooters but even the most advanced ones significantly limit our interactions with these new worlds. This is where VR gloves have the advantage, and while we’ve seen some developments in the space, for example, from Oculus, most of the gloves coming through are bulky and over engineered. Enter Plexus, a US startup backed by Y Combinator, who are about to release a new low cost, easy to use glove that gives users fine grained control in these immersive environments.
The Plexus glove delivers hepatic feedback for both Augmented Reality (AR) and VR worlds and relies on the existing tracking systems of HTC, who also recently released a brain controlled VR headset, and Oculus. Basically, the tracking sensors grab the position of where the hands are in 3D space via their magnetically attached trackers and, after calibrating a resting state of the user’s fingers, the gloves individual sensors communicate their position to the game engine. And the simple silicone glove is a pretty effective design.
Go all in
Velcro straps secure the glove at your palm and the individual finger controls hook onto the end of your fingertips with motors that offer incredibly fine grained tactile feedback to users.
So far all of the people who have tested them say the design makes navigation pretty effortless with most of the weight placed on the back of the wrist, and after strapping on a pair of gloves, users can hold virtual items in their hands and manipulate the position of objects as easy as they can in real life.
While there is clearly still some work to be done on the software end, especially with respect to motion latency the team promise they’re working on it, and it’s clear that the hardest work to be done is figuring out how the software translates real world 3D movements into 3D virtual ones that let users interact seamlessly with their immersive worlds, something the team seems to have cracked.
At the moment Plexus is focusing its tech at the enterprise with $250 developer kits, which are over four times cheaper than the equivalents from Oculus, but in time, as the VR consumer space continues to grow and take shape the company has said it’s highly likely that they’ll make it available to everyone.