Meta, otherwise known as Facebook, is working on a haptic feedback glove that’s designed to add touch sensations when used in its vaguely defined Metaverse VR and AR environments. Sure, it looks like a prop from a Predator movie, but a device like this is one step on the path to achieving genuine VR immersion, which can't happen without feelings of touch and taste. We've got no idea how to get around the latter, though if we could, would we really want to? If VR is ever to break out of its entertainment and fun only stereotype and become a commonplace part of life and work, technology like this is needed to get there.
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According to Reality Labs (opens in new tab) director Sean Keller (via Gizmodo (opens in new tab)), people can touch, feel and manipulate virtual objects just as they would a real object. The glove features triggering actuators which apply pressure to the hand, depending on the virtual object being handled. Is it cool though, or just a gimmick?
Meta aims to scale up to thousands of actuators which could go a long way to simulating an essentially unlimited range of scenarios. Sporting, gaming or handshakes, and let's face it, sex sells so there's probably a bunch of 'entrepreneurs' already dreaming up applications. But then we get into privacy and security concerns. There's a long way to go before such technology goes mainstream.
Despite Meta's lofty ambitions, its glove isn't the first attempt at creating a haptic feedback device (opens in new tab) and let's face it, in its current state it looks rough, clunky and probably years away from release, that's if it ever gets released. There's also the need to convince the wider public that VR can have practical real-world use cases beyond entertainment. It feels like we have some way to go before that happens.
Meta hasn't revealed any details about availability, expected pricing or a name. We do know they can't call it the Power Glove (opens in new tab). Time will tell if this technology will find a really compelling use case, or whether it is remembered as an interesting concept or a total dud.