By now, there is no doubt that virtual reality can be done and it will be the future of gaming. However, there are still a lot of obstacles it has to overcome before it can really take off, and one of which is the inability to touch in-game objects. Dextra Robotics have recognized this problem, and as a solution they have built a exoskeleton controller called Dexmo. Dexmo is an advanced exoskeleton that allows users to touch in-game objects as if they were in the real world.
Right now there are two versions of Dexmo currently in development. The first of which is Dexmo Classic. Dexmo Classic is worn much like a glove and captures movement in all of your fingers. The advanced algorithms used by the Dexmo allows for extremely precise VR gestures that aren’t achievable otherwise. The more interesting version of Dexmo is the Dexmo F2. The F2 does not only allow tracking like the Classic, but it also features a feedback system that gives users a sense of touch.
To give a natural-feeling feedback, the Dexmo F2 has brakes on the joints that lock fingers in place. Once the in-game avatar touches something, a signal is sent back to the Dexmo in order to lock the joints, making it feel like there is a normal force acting against your fingers. The device is also capable of accurately responding to collisions, which would allow you to crush objects in your fist.
While the concept and device as a whole is very exciting, there still are a few drawbacks. One of the most notable ones is that the F2 only has two breaks, one on the thumb and one on the index finger. This means that you will not get feedback on your other three fingers. Luckily Dextra did say they may expand in the future, but want to stick with a two-finger trial for now. The second and more complicated drawback is the lack of texture. The only feedback Dexmo can provide is either on or off, and it cannot differentiate between a smooth and rugged surface. There are also some smaller problems like a slightly high latency, but Dextra plans to iron these issues out in the consumer version.
Right now Dextra Robotics only has some primitive 3D-printed prototypes they’ve made for themselves. Sometime this month they plan to launch a Kickstarter in hopes of raising enough money to manufacture more sturdy models for consumers. Right now there isn’t a set price, but they want to aim for something under $200, which is pretty impressive considering its competition can cost up to $100,000.
The fact that they have nothing more than than a 3D-printed model is a bit concerning, as there is no guarantee the kickstarter will be a success. However, I imagine something this cheap and innovative will do extremely well on kickstarter, depending on their goal. Either way, this concept is extremely exciting and only gets me more excited for the future of virtual reality.
Sources: Dextra Robotics, Kotaku, Reddit, Reddit