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Experimental tech aims to bring sense of touch to virtual reality

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A mysterious tech company popped up on Reddit's Oculus page last night to answer questions about a device they say will introduce the sense of touch to virtual reality.

The Dexmo F2 is a single hand exoskeleton which, according to creators Dextra Robotics, can create the sense of touch in the thumb and forefinger within a virtual reality environment. Here's how it works, according to the Reddit post.

"On the thumb and the index finger exoskeleton there are two additional piece of hardware that we invested a lot of time developing, called the force feedback unit(Duh..), which is essentially a miniaturized gear disk braking system. It works like this, when the avatar you are controlling hits an digital object, a signal is sent back via our SDK to Dexmo F2 and the small actuators actuates, brakes the joint and locks the exoskeleton. When you further bend your finger inwards, a normal force will be created on your fingertip.(FYI, this is patent pending in the state, and we got our very first patent for Dexmo approved in China)."

dextra

So essentially, when you touch a solid object with your hand in the virtual world, the device kicks in, preventing those two fingers from moving, and then uses actuators on the fingertips to apply slight pressure, giving the sensation of a solid object. The device doesn't bend your fingers back, nor does it work on more than two fingers currently.

According to Destra Robotics, this is a device meant to test the waters to see if there is an interest in this tech. If the Kickstarter, which the company says will launch in October to sell the devices for about $200, is successful, they might look into creating future devices that can implement this tech on five fingers.

The rig, which you can see in action in the video below, serves another interesting purpose: it captures movement and sends the data into the virtual world. Essentially it's part feedback device, part mo-cap rig.

The alpha version of the unit, show in the picture above, was 3D printed out of plastic, but the retail version will be made of metal and allow users to apply quite a bit of force to the locked joints when in a virtual world.

Obviously, this is a pretty basic form of touch for virtual reality, but it could be an interesting first step in solving one of the issues some people have with virtual reality rigs.