Lightweight haptic glove gets to grips with virtual touch

Swiss researchers have developed a haptic glove that weighs just eight grams and can mimic the sensation of touching and grasping objects.

Known as DextrES, the device was designed and built by engineers at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and ETH Zurich. With a thickness of just 2mm, the nylon glove compares favourably to existing haptic devices that are bulky and unwieldy. It is capable of generating up to 40 Newtons of holding force on each finger with just 200 Volts and only a few milliWatts of power. Although currently powered from mains supply, it also has the potential to run off a small battery, providing even more flexibility.

“We wanted to develop a lightweight device that – unlike existing virtual-reality gloves – doesn’t require a bulky exoskeleton, pumps or very thick cables,” said Herbert Shea, head of EPFL’s Soft Transducers Laboratory (LMTS). “The system’s low power requirement is due to the fact that it doesn’t create a movement, but blocks one.”

DextrES has thin pliable metal strips running over the fingers, with the strips separated by a thin insulator. When the user’s fingers come into contact with a virtual object, the controller applies a voltage difference between the metal strips, causing them to stick together via electrostatic attraction. This produces a braking force that blocks movement of the digits, giving the same sensation as holding or grabbing an object. Once the voltage is removed, the metal strips glide smoothly and the user can once again move fingers freely.

By The Engineer

Image Credit: Marc Delachaux / EPFL

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About Peter Coffaro 522 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 20 years of progressive management success within the medical device industry. As a District Sales Manager for Stryker Orthopaedics, Peter was responsible for managing and directing a regional sales force to achieve sales and profit goals within the Rocky Mountain region. Previously, he was the Director of Sales & Marketing for Amp Orthopedics. In this role, Peter was responsible for planning, developing, and leading all sales and marketing initiatives. Peter is a former orthopedic distributor in the Pacific Northwest. He has also worked with DePuy Orthopaedics as well as Zimmer, and held positions in sales, sales training, and sales management. Peter has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, negotiating and P&L management. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University.

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