Meta's haptic glove will let you touch the metaverse

Gloves like these could one day add to the immersion of VR games and experiences.

VR haptic glove

Meta's haptic glove uses pneumatics to simulate the feeling of touch in VR.

Photo: Meta Reality Labs

In the future, pulling a lever in Vacation Simulator may feel a little more like touching one in real life: Researchers at Meta's Reality Labs have been working on a haptic glove that would add the sensation of touch to augmented and virtual reality experiences, and ultimately make the metaverse more immersive.

Meta has given us some sneak peeks at the gloves in the past, including in patent filings and brief video appearances, but this is the first time the company is sharing more details on the project.

  • Reality Labs researchers have been working on haptic gloves for seven years, and they're not done by a long shot: A blog post published Tuesday outlines that the gloves are part of efforts to build technology "for what our digital worlds will look like in 10 to 15 years."
  • The ultimate goal is to build soft and lightweight gloves that can be used to both track hand movements and provide tactile feedback. "The value of hands to solving the interaction problem in AR and VR is immense," said Reality Labs Research Director Sean Keller. "People could touch, feel and manipulate virtual objects just like real objects — all without having to learn a new way of interacting with the world."
  • Current prototypes use pneumatic actuators — small motors that use air pressure to provide tactile feedback — in combination with a microfluidic processor, which is a chip that's directly situated on the glove to control the air pressure valves.
  • Reality Labs researchers have also been developing new polymer materials for the glove itself in order to eventually manufacture it at scale.

Meta is not the only company working on this type of haptic glove for VR applications. Notably, HaptX has also been working on a glove that is driven by pneumatics, and is making its devices available to developers for VR and industrial robotics applications.

  • HaptX's glove does show some of the potential of this technology: When I tested an early prototype four years ago, I was able to touch individual flowers in a VR experience, and "feel" objects sliding over my open palm.
  • HaptX's device also shows the current limits of this technology: The startup's glove is fairly rigid and uses a kind of external brace, and needs to be connected to a sizable control box to drive the pneumatics.
  • Much of this could be miniaturized over time, but Meta's researchers acknowledged that VR worlds may never feel 100% real. For instance, a glove may be able to simulate the sensation of touching the top of a virtual table, but it won't prevent hands from passing through the table's surface.

Still, the technology developed for these gloves may have repercussions beyond AR and VR. "While we're focused on building a haptic glove, the breakthroughs we're making in fluidic switching and control — not to mention soft robotics — could lead to radical advances for the medical industry in lab-on-chip diagnostics, microfluidic biochemistry and even wearable and assistive devices," said Reality Labs Research Hardware Engineering Director Tristan Trutna.

Workplace

An IPO may soon be in Notion’s future

Notion COO Akshay Kothari says there’s room to grow, aided by a new CFO who knows how to take a company public.

Notion has hired its first chief financial officer: Rama Katkar.

Photo: Courtesy of Notion

It’s been a year since Notion’s triumphant $275 million funding round and $10 billion valuation. Since then the landscape for productivity startups trying to make it on their own has completely changed, especially for those pandemic darlings that flourished in the all-remote world.

As recession looms, companies looking to cut costs are less likely to spend money on tools outside of their Microsoft or Google workplace bundles. Enterprise platforms are bulking up and it could spell trouble for the productivity startups trying to unseat them. But Notion COO Akshay Kothari says the company is still aiming to build the next Microsoft, not be the next Microsoft. And in a move signaling a new chapter of maturity, Notion has hired its first chief financial officer: Rama Katkar, Instacart’s former VP of finance.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Securing the Enterprise

Securing the enterprise

There’s no let-up in the surge of cyberattacks against businesses. But shutting down the hackers will require many enterprises to evolve their strategy.

In today’s enterprise, “identity and security are very merged.”

Illustration: iStock/Getty Images Plus; Protocol
the Protocol team
Protocol focuses on the people, power and politics of tech, with no agenda and just one goal: to arm decision-makers in tech, business and public policy with the unbiased, fact-based news and analysis they need to navigate a world in rapid change.
Fintech

How neobanks are helping consumers game credit scoring

The CFPB says it is closely monitoring secured credit cards offered by neobanks.

Regulators are scrutinizing neobanks' card offerings.

Photo: Oscar Wong/Moment/Getty Images

About one in six Americans has a credit score below 619, according to the CFPB. Another 23% have too thin a credit file to score or no file at all. That puts them in a credit trap: To build credit, these consumers need someone to give them a line of credit with which they can demonstrate good financial habits. But with scores that low, few lenders are prepared to offer them anything.

Neobanks say they can solve the problem through a new twist on secured credit cards. But regulators are already scrutinizing their offerings.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

Policy

Steel decided World War II. Chips will decide whatever is next.

“Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology” foreshadows the coming battle between nations over semiconductors.

“Chip War” outlines the nature of the coming battle over semiconductors, showing how the power to produce leading-edge chips fell into the hands of just five companies.

Image: Scribner; Protocol

“World War II was decided by steel and aluminum, and followed shortly thereafter by the Cold War, which was defined by atomic weapons,” Chris Miller, a professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, writes in the introduction to his latest book. So what’s next? According to Miller, the next era, including the rivalry between the U.S. and China, is all about computing power.

That tech rivalry and the story of how the chip industry got from four to 11.8 billion transistors are all part of Miller’s book, “Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology,” which comes out Oct. 4. “Chip War” outlines the nature of the coming battle over semiconductors, showing how the power to produce leading-edge chips fell into the hands of just five companies: three from the U.S., one from Japan, and one from the Netherlands.

Keep Reading Show less
Hirsh Chitkara

Hirsh Chitkara ( @HirshChitkara) is a reporter at Protocol focused on the intersection of politics, technology and society. Before joining Protocol, he helped write a daily newsletter at Insider that covered all things Big Tech. He's based in New York and can be reached at hchitkara@protocol.com.

Latest Stories
Bulletins