This Pair of Haptic Gloves Gives Feedback in VR and Cost Just $60 to Make

The LucidGloves use servo motors to provide force feedback and communicate with a host device over Bluetooth or USB.

Haptic feedback

Whether it is for gaming, holding a meeting, or simply exploring a new area of the world, virtual reality is far more immersive for these tasks. However, it can lack physical feedback, especially when it comes to knowing if an object is being held and what it feels like. This is what inspired Lucas, who runs the YouTube channel Lucas VRTech, to build a pair of VR gloves that he calls the Lucid Gloves. They can not only determine the precise position of a user's fingers, but also provide them with haptic feedback when interacting with an object that isn't physically present.

Previous prototypes

This haptic glove system is a fully custom an open-source project that has had five total iterations, with only the latest three being public. The first public release, prototype number 3, was made to be far more comfortable compared to the previous versions, and version 3.1 gained support for Bluetooth while also being faster/easier to assemble. But neither of these gloves featured a method for notifying the user that they are holding something virtually, which is precisely what version 4 added.

Components

To construct this glove, Lucas started out with nearly identical components from his last prototype. These included a joystick for moving around within a virtual environment, five spools, thread, and a set of five potentiometers for reading positional information. The main difference was the inclusion of five 9g servo motors, which go to various positions in order to limit the range of motion for a given finger. Finally, an ESP-WROOM-32 module was added to control everything and report data back via Bluetooth serial, although an Arduino Nano could also be swapped in for purely USB support.

Designing the hardware

Each glove started out as an ordinary golfing glove, which was then transformed by adding a series of rings to each finger for every joint, giving a total of 15. The fingertips keep the end of each thread in place so it can apply tension to the retractable spool on the other side whenever a finger contracts. Just behind the spool is a slot containing a screw that bumps into the previously mentioned servo motor at a certain point, thus limiting the finger's range of motion. The joystick, buttons, and VR controller/tracker are mounted just inside the glove to keep them within easy reach.

Sending data between games and the gloves

With the potentiometers and motors in place, Lucas then had to find a way to calibrate where the servo should be located to correspond with a certain finger position. To do this, the zeroed finger position was calibrated after a button press, letting the system know where to begin. Then for each game, Lucas, along with a couple of other people, created mods that gather the size of objects and pass that data along to their OpenGloves driver, which tells the glove where each finger should be.

Using the LucidGloves

Seeing the system in action was quite interesting, as the user was able to physically interact with both a virtual cube and a few different kinds of handles. This experience created a far greater feeling of immersion compared to only a headset and pair of controllers. To read more about this project, you can check out its write-up on Hackaday.io or view the GitHub repository here.

Arduino “having11” Guy
20 year-old IoT and embedded systems enthusiast. Also produce content for Hackster.io and love working on projects and sharing knowledge.
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