Back in 2014, before the first commercial VR headsets hit the market, Chinese company Dexta Robotics was already asking the hard questions: how do you implement user input and interaction without breaking the illusion of an immersive virtual reality world. Although its Dexmo Kickstarter was canceled, the company continued working on the idea of exoskeleton gloves for VR. And based on its latest video and PR materials, it seems quite ready to take the new Dexmo into the final phase of an actual, commercial product.
Most commercial VR products these day rely on game pads or sticks to implement interaction with virtual objects. While practical and, in some cases, effective, it isn’t ideal. It doesn’t take into account more fine-grained interaction that can only be afforded by fingers and hands.
Regular VR gloves, however, are only half the equation. While they do provide fingered input, they leave out the necessary feedback to make grasping a virtual object feel as real as holding an equivalent actual one. That is where the Dexmo gloves come in. In addition to tracking fingers for input, the gloves also apply some force, like slightly tugging on the fingers, to give an approximation of the virtual object being held. The resistance applied differs depending on the type of virtual object, so a rubber ducky would exert less resistance but more “bounce” compared to a solid block of wood.
From the looks of it, the new Dexmo has been polished in its final form. The first iterations demonstrated on Kickstarter gave justice to the “skeleton” in exoskeleton. While the new Dexmo does look more fleshed out, it also looks more like overgrown gloves. Dexta claims that the gloves are, however, lightweight, but we’ll have to try it on for size first to believe. Sadly, no launch details are available yet, so we’ll have to make do with sticks and wands for the time being.