Meta's haptic glove allows you to interact with the metaverse.


3 min read

article by Amit caesar


Pulling a lever in Vacation Simulator in the future might feel a little more like touching one in real life: Meta's Reality Labs is developing a haptic glove that would add the sensation of touch to augmented and virtual reality experiences, making the metaverse more immersive.


Meta has previously given us glimpses of the gloves through patent filings and brief video appearances, but this is the first time the company is disclosing more information about the project.

  • Reality Labs researchers have been working on haptic gloves for seven years, and they're not done by a long shot: A blog post published Tuesday outlines that the gloves are part of efforts to build technology "for what our digital worlds will look like in 10 to 15 years."
  • The ultimate goal is to build soft and lightweight gloves that can be used to both track hand movements and provide tactile feedback. "The value of hands to solving the interaction problem in AR and VR is immense," said Reality Labs Research Director Sean Keller. "People could touch, feel and manipulate virtual objects just like real objects — all without having to learn a new way of interacting with the world."
  • Current prototypes use pneumatic actuators — small motors that use air pressure to provide tactile feedback — in combination with a microfluidic processor, which is a chip that's directly situated on the glove to control the air pressure valves.
  • Reality Labs researchers have also been developing new polymer materials for the glove itself in order to eventually manufacture it at scale.



Meta isn't the only company working on a haptic glove for virtual reality.

Notably, HaptX has also been working on a glove that is driven by pneumatics, and is making its devices available to developers for VR and industrial robotics applications.

  • HaptX's glove does show some of the potential of this technology: When I tested an early prototype four years ago, I was able to touch individual flowers in a VR experience, and "feel" objects sliding over my open palm.
  • HaptX's device also shows the current limits of this technology: The startup's glove is fairly rigid and uses a kind of external brace, and needs to be connected to a sizable control box to drive the pneumatics.
  • Much of this could be miniaturized over time, but Meta's researchers acknowledged that VR worlds may never feel 100% real. For instance, a glove may be able to simulate the sensation of touching the top of a virtual table, but it won't prevent hands from passing through the table's surface.


Nonetheless, the technology developed for these gloves could have far-reaching implications that go beyond AR and VR. "While we're working on a haptic glove, the advances we're making in fluidic switching and control — not to mention soft robotics — could lead to radical advances for the medical industry in lab-on-a-chip diagnostics, microfluidic biochemistry, and even wearable and assistive devices," said Reality Labs Research Hardware Engineering Director Tristan Trutna.


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