Meta is spending $10B on AR/VR and metaverse hardware this year. One project: a prototype VR glove that uses inflatable pads to simulate touch.

A few weeks ago, Mark Zuckerberg explained his vision for the metaverse and rebranded Facebook as “Meta.”

As part of its pivot, Meta said it’s spending ~$10B this year on VR, AR, and hardware related to the metaverse.

On Tuesday, the company unveiled one major project:

A prototype of haptic VR gloves

According to The Verge, Meta is building handwear “that reproduces sensations like grasping an object or running your hand along a surface.”

The glove has been in the works for 7 years and works like so:

  • It’s lined with ~15 inflatable plastic pads
  • The pads run along the palm, underside of the fingers, and fingertips
  • There is a camera and sensors to detect finger movement and bending

Example: If you pick up a plate in the virtual world, the finger pads will inflate to create that real-life feeling.

The technology is called soft robotics…

… and replaces traditional haptic technology that uses “bulky motors with tiny air valves,” per The Verge.

Even if Meta nails the tech, there are a number of challenges it faces before going mass market:

  • Hand sizes differ greatly and the glove needs to have a tight fit to be effective
  • Cleaning the glove will probably not be as easy as throwing it in the wash
  • Biometrics data collected from the glove raises potential privacy concerns

Another product is in the works

Meta’s Reality Labs — the unit responsible for AR/VR hardware — is also building electromyography tools to turn nerve signals in the arm into digital actions.

With a reported 10m Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets already sold, Meta’s solution will set pace for the industry… just like Zuck planned when this photo was taken in 2016.

(Source: CNET / Facebook)