Virtual reality is all well and good, but decent haptics and a bit of force feedback are essential to be truly immersive. The register donned the Teslasuit glove at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this week.
We looked at Manus VR’s Prime Haptic gloves in 2019 and while the accuracy and haptics were impressive, the feeling of grabbing something in a VR session was lacking once you were pushed past the pads.
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Teslasuit, known for its eponymous VR bodysuit (which we also tried – more on that later), has tried to tackle this with a gauntlet that aims to make VR a little more tactile.
In addition to fingertip haptics (Teslasuit uses transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation – TENS – to create a wide variety of sensations and virtual textures), the glove is motorized and can handle 9 Newtons of force or 2.8-3.3 kg. *cm of torque, according to company specifications, on fingers.
The gloves are cordless and we were told to expect around 12 hours of battery life, although we imagine this would vary considerably depending on usage. They’re also surprisingly light and comfortable to wear (and yes, the first thing we did was exactly what you expected us to do: curl our fingers into a ball and lift only our middle finger).
One size fits all and each set consists of left and right hand gloves, along with USB-C cables, pads and a charger, all packed in a sturdy box.
HTC Vive Trackers or Meta Quest 2 controllers can be mounted to make use of the accurate positioning data available from the gloves, although you’d really want to dive into the Control Center, Studio and SDK to take full advantage of them. The gloves are certainly not aimed at consumers either, with retail prices well into the five-figure range.
However, we can well imagine that the devices, such as the Teslasuit itself, prove to be an invaluable training tool.
Fit and Started
The Teslasuit has been around for a while, but the technology remains impressively futuristic.
We’ve poured our lockdown bodies into one (yes, they’re getting really, really big) and frankly, VR will never be the same. Similar to the glove, the suit uses TENS and adds other electrical stimulation for haptics to create the illusion of touching an object. It is a whole-body system (no pads near the genital area) and also allows biometrics to be read to track the wearer’s condition and to record movement.
We weren’t sold on the concept at first—the sensations of the suit uncomfortably remind this writer of a very mild version of the PainStation—until a spokesperson turned on the rain effect, which was amazingly like standing in the rain. You could feel every virtual drop.
This was followed by a virtual race car ride and again, when we forget we were in a booth at FutureLab, the thrill was quite something. Put on a VR headset and the immersion would be complete.
While the suit and glove are not aimed at consumers, both point the way to a significantly more immersive future. There are plenty of suppliers for haptic gloves, but not so many for force-feedback devices (DextaRobotics’ Dexmo comes to mind).
Last year Meta showed her own research and, after playing with Teslasuit’s products, we’re curious how long it will take for such devices to make their way out of industrial applications and into the hands of consumers.