Smart gloves – Touch what isn’t there.

What is a smart glove?

A smart glove refers to a glove that has some kind of technology embedded in it. It is a broad term and it includes many types of devices. Smart gloves can have a whole lot of different features and they can be connected to the phone via Bluetooth or the computer through a cable, etc. Some have kinesthetic feedback, tactile feedback, temperature control, and health monitoring, all depending on what it’s made for.

Smart gloves, wired gloves, haptic gloves, etc.

A wired glove is a special smart glove that you wear to interact with computers. It helps you input information by capturing how your fingers, your wrist, and forearm move. This is done using different sensors that can detect how they move. Sometimes, the glove also has a motion tracker, like a magnetic or inertial device, that keeps track of where the glove is and how it rotates.

They can also have features like haptic feedback that simulate the sense of touch. That’s when they’re called haptic gloves… Confused? Anyway, with those when you touch something in a computer-generated environment, the glove can make it feel like you’re actually touching it in real life.

VR gloves are Virtual Reality Gloves. Wired-, and haptic gloves fall both under that definition.

A smart glove is a broader term. All wired gloves, VR gloves, and haptic gloves are smart gloves. But it’s not true the other way around.

Smart gloves for the visually impaired

smart gloves

If you are visually impaired, it’s obvious that all these new technologies in some cases can be a big help. And in some cases, inventions can be groundbreaking and offer a key to whole new environments. One such area is, of course, gloves that translate sign language into spoken or written words.

Sign-IO is such a smart glove. It can translate sign language into speech and text. The glove has flex sensors on each finger that measure the bend of the finger and process the letter or word being signed. It then sends the data paired to a mobile app via Bluetooth which in turn vocalizes or displays the signed gestures in real-time. You can choose the language and even the pitch of the speech according to your preference. It was invented by Roy Allela, a Kenyan data science tutor at Oxford University, who was inspired by his deaf niece.

Smart gloves in sports

In sports, smart glove technology can use all kinds of sensors, accelerometers, and gyroscopes, to measure and analyze hand movements. It can then provide feedback to guide the user or correct their posture.

SensoGlove is marketed as the first smart golf glove that can help improve your technique and swing. It has sensors on each finger that detect the pressure applied to the club in various stages of the movement. It analyzes the data, and can supposedly correct your posture and grasp on the club’s handle. Via a Bluetooth connection, it can provide audio and visual feedback.

Smart gloves in medicine

In many lower incomes countries, obstructed labor, when the fetus blocks the birth canal due to its position or size, is a major problem Researchers attribute 98% of stillbirths in these areas to this problem.

A newly developed innovative device consists of a simple surgical glove with flexible pressure and force sensors printed on the fingertips. These sensors, generate an electric current when they come into contact with objects. The design is thin enough to preserve a doctor’s sense of touch even when a secondary surgical glove is worn over it.

The smart glove detects the delicate surface structures of the fetal head. It also accurately measures the applied force by the hand. The result is that the glove can determine the fetal position, thus determining the risk for obstructed labor, before it becomes an emergency.

Although not on the market yet, the cost for this device is estimated at around 1 dollar, less than a pack of chewing gum. For that price, the death of thousands of children and the suffering and possibly death of their mothers could be prevented.

Smart gloves in entertainment

And now to the funny stuff. Smart gloves in entertainment mostly come down to vired gloves that interact with some sort of game or virtual environment. And there are quite a lot of those out there if you’re into gaming.

Wired gloves have sensors that capture your hand and finger movements and turn them into commands or gestures. No brainer there. But wired gloves can also track the position and orientation of your hand in 3D space using magnetic or inertial sensors.

Some wired gloves go even further and they let you feel like you’re actually touching things in the virtual world through haptic feedback. You experience the sense of touch or force without there actually being anything real there. Even feelings like hot and cold can be simulated in the glove. These gloves are often called, yes, haptic gloves.

These haptic gloves come in a wide price range. From relatively simple products for just a couple of hundred bucks, up to devices for tens of thousands.

The California-based company, Haptx makes a VR glove powered by compressed air. The gloves have hundreds of tiny air bladders on the fingers and palm controlled by a pneumatic system. A complex algorithm adjusts the pressure, frequency, and duration of the air pulses to create different types of touch sensations, such as texture, shape, weight, or temperature.

And how is the gaming industry keeping up?

VR technology with gloves and headsets is a game-changer for gaming. No pun intended. It is a very different thing to be inside the game, compared to looking at it on a screen. Many gaming manufacturers are trying to adopt VR devices into their products. For now, it seems to be more of an adjustment to the new technology, which some programmers have managed to do successfully.

We are still waiting for developers starting to build their games from the start for the VR technology already available, though.