Chris Taylor, a self-professed virtual reality junkie based in Atlanta, has given enough demonstrations of VR tech to keep seeing the same thing happen over and over.
The user straps on the headset. It’s their first introduction to playing in a computer generated virtual world that they’re now seeing unfold all around them. Ok, they say, as they’re getting adjusted — where are my hands? They grope around, feeling things out.
Seeing that happen often enough gave Taylor and some friends an idea: something that might complement existing VR headsets on the market and give users an even richer VR experience is a pair of gloves. Specifically, gloves that use haptic feedback to let users literally feel the virtual world around them. The benefits for VR gamers are self-evident, but Taylor acknowledges the potential for plenty of other use cases as well.
On April 25, he and the team behind what they’re calling VRgluv launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $100,000. The gloves will retail for $579, but early Kickstarter backers will get a pair at a heavily discounted rate.
“Probably the middle of last year, I’d just gotten a Vive,” Taylor recalls. “I’ve been a huge VR guy for forever, and we started kicking around some ideas on how we could potentially do a haptic glove. We started working in our free time — on nights and weekends — to see what we could come up with.
“Around January, we kind of decided our prototype’s looking pretty cool — we think we could turn this into a real product and take it to market. So at that point, me and some other engineers decided to go full-time on the project, and we’ve been working nonstop for the past three months to get it launched. We started showing it off to people and getting feedback. This is our fourth prototype.”
VRgluv is compatible with both Vive and Oculus. All the user has to do is outfit the Vive tracker, controller or Oculus Touch with the included VRgluv adapters and lock them in place on each VRgluv unit.
According to the VRgluv team, they MacGyvered the whole thing in less than three months in the back of a product design warehouse.
Their first step in creating the glove experience was accomplishing high-fidelity finger and hand tracking. They also positioned the VR controller attachment point on the user’s hand in a way that allows for full rotational wrist tracking, in addition to finger tracking, so that the user’s virtual hands always match the position and orientation of their entire hand with high accuracy.
The glove’s force feedback technology and multiple pressure sensors also give it real-time feedback about grip strength, so the user can virtually squeeze a stuffed animal or feel the grip of a trigger — whatever the object they encounter, they’ll be able to “feel” it.
The team has also been working on a low-level SDK. They want VRgluv to essentially be able to be “dragged and dropped” into almost any VR game currently on the market.
The VRgluv co-founders include Taylor, Derek Kearney, Addison Shelton, Steven Fullerton, Eddie Khalili and Harold Brown. Their venture is coming out of stealth mode at a time when VR is continuing its inexorable push into the mainstream.
Facebook’s most recent F8 developer conference, for example, spent a significant amount of time on new VR capabilities that the world’s largest social networking is pushing to the fore.
“When you see people try VR for the first time, it clicks in your brain,” Taylor said. “You get it. I think we’re going to see a big acceleration in 2017 of what we saw last year. We’ve really only had consumer-ready VR for about a year. I’m very bullish on the adoption rate.”