Phantom VR glove delivers a sense of touch, but leaves fingers free

There are now a number of high-tech gloves that deliver tactile sensations to VR users’ fingertips when they touch virtual objects or surfaces. The Phantom glove is unique, however, in that it doesn’t cover the fingers, leaving them free for real-world interactions.

Developed by Colorado-based VR startup Afference, the Phantom is the recipient of a CES 2024 Innovation Award.

The wearable device incorporates an electronics/battery module which is hard-wired to five adjustable-size rings fastened around the base of each finger. All of these components are connected to a lightweight fabric harness that is fastened around the wrist, and which does not cover the palm of the hand.

The whole rig is wirelessly connected via Bluetooth to a third-party VR headset, gaming console, computer and/or mobile device. As the user grasps or simply touches virtual items in the VR world, the rings on the corresponding real-world fingers stimulate the nerves that connect the fingertips to the brain.

As a result, the brain reportedly “believes” that those fingers are touching something, so it produces the associated tactile sensation in those digits. When no virtual items are being touched, though, the user’s uncovered fingertips can still feel things in the surrounding physical environment.

Afference founders Jacob Segil (left) and Dustin Tyler test their haptic feedback system
Afference founders Jacob Segil (left) and Dustin Tyler test their haptic feedback system


“We can create pragmatic sensations like a button-click or fantastical sensations like a laser shooting out of your finger,” Afference co-founder Jacob Segil tells us. “We describe the sensation as artificial touch, and it typically feels like a buzzing, tingling, or humming in your finger. We pattern that information to match visual content like buttons, dials, or other mechanisms.”

Segil says that a consumer version of the Phantom glove won’t be available until 2026. In the meantime, he and co-founder Dustin Tyler will be concentrating on licensing the technology to commercial partners in the spatial computing industry.

The Phantom is demonstrated in the video below.

The Phantom by Afference

Source: Afference

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