DigiGlo — new Digital Gloves by Swiss and Israeli researchers — may cause us to do a double-take? With this emerging technology, we could soon see people wearing virtual reality head-mounted displays (HMDs) and interacting in peculiar ways with gloves.
Ready or not, the technology is coming, and the team thinks it will have unique applications in healthcare, education, and entertainment. DigiGlo is a system that explores the “symbiosis of hand input and hand display” by combining digital gloves with a virtual reality HMD. Users control games and activities through a set of hand movements while also viewing displayed content on the palm of their hand.
The researchers contend that the human hand is “intimately linked to our interaction with the physical world and sets us apart from our evolutionary ancestors.” With DigiGlo, they have eliminated handheld devices from the picture and drawn a straight line from our brains (which interact with the game or activity) to our hands, serving as both display and controller.
Researchers believe that DigiGlo creates a unique setting with three advantages:
- Intuitive control: Digital Gloves promote intuitive, natural hand movements.
- Split attention: Users see content displayed on their hands, and their hands also control the game. This feature reduces split attention or having to look away from the controls to the target.
- Embodiment: DigiGlo requires body movements or physical interaction, which can enhance learning.
By putting three purposefully designed DigiGlo activities to the test in two user studies, the researchers gained meaningful observations and user testimonials to help them make future adjustments and further developments. The three activities included Space Traveler, Marble Runner and Noelle’s Ark.
Space Traveler: A “pinball game on a hand-shaped playfield” where players try to collect fuel containers while dodging asteroids and wormholes. This game was made to demonstrate the intuitive control features of DigiGlo.
Marble Runner: A “rogue-like game” where the player controls the movement of a marble at the base of their palm and maneuvers through a spiky planet. This game reduces split attention and also employs intuitive control.
Noelle’s Ark: An “educational playful activity” that helps children explore and understand the concept of weight in different objects. This activity demonstrates the concept of embodiment, addresses intuitive control, and reduces split attention.
To test their theories, the team conducted a pair of user studies. The first was a preliminary usability study with 24 participants during which they played Space Traveler. The second was a system design study with five participants (due to COVID-19 limitations) to garner an “in-depth analysis of the system” and “recommendations for future implementations.” In the second study, participants played all three games/activities.
As a result of the preliminary usability study, researchers found that the DigiGlo system ranked 77 or “Good” on the System Usability Score with a range of 53 to 100. They also found that “participants with higher gaming experience felt less immersed that those with lower gaming experience,” likely due to more experience with virtual reality applications in gaming.
From the study, the developers noted several important takeaways. Such as the need to employ simple, intuitive hand gestures consistent across all activities:
- Including a tutorial phase to practice gestures;
- Purposefully designing activities that are well-suited to the size and shape of the hand;
- Using sound and other visuals to provide multimodal feedback to the user;
- And reducing the physical discomfort of the user and exploring different body positions.
Next, the researchers hope to explore a DigiGlo setup that employs augmented spatial reality (SAR) where “game content is directly projected onto the users’ physical hands.” Future DigiGlo applications might include a rhythm game where users play a musical instrument on their hand and a game to promote rehabilitation therapy for the hand.