Feeling virtual objects at your fingertips

May 31, 2016 // By Julien Happich
Manipulating objects in the virtual world may become a bit more straightforward if you wear CEA-LIST's latest hand exoskeleton, a sort of mechanical glove laden with sensors and actuators. The haptics-enabled contraption gives the wearer actual physical cues about the objects being manipulated in 3D, to all five finger joints and tips.

A Research Engineer at CEA-LIST's Interactive Simulation Lab (LSI), Vincent Weistroffer exhibited a first demonstrator at Innorobo, freshly assembled less than two weeks ago as the end result of the MANDARIN project (MANipulation Dextre hAptique pour opéRations INdustrielles en RV which could translate as dexterous haptic manipulation for VR industrial operations ).

Backed by the French National Research Agency (ANR) with industrial partners including haptic interfaces provider Haption and car maker Renault, the MANDARIN project, which also involves the Inria Rennes and the Université de Technologie de Compiègne , aims to deliver a virtual object manipulation interface for immersive environments, which industrials could use to intuitively explore complex structures or to train technicians with assembly or disassembly procedures.

With force-feedback implemented on four fingers, the exoskeleton glove gives the wearer the sensation of manipulating real physical objects, exactly as they are displayed on screen or in a virtual environment. The glove could also be used to remotely control a slave robotic hand or manipulator.

"Next, we'll implement hand position tracking using IR camera and reflective markers placed on the exoskeleton", Weistroffer told EETimes Europe, showing round recesses in the 3D-printed plastic casing. "In the future, the hand could be mounted on a full haptic arm exoskeleton to implement stronger force-feedback, so you would not be able to force your way through a virtual object" the researcher added.