Smart gaming glove is lightweight and flexible

Wednesday, 09 September, 2020

Smart gaming glove is lightweight and flexible

Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed a smart gaming glove — called ‘InfinityGlove’ — that allows users to mimic a variety of in-game controls using simple hand gestures, without the need for additional wiring to connect it to a computer.

While the concept of controlling a game using your hands is not new, the main problems have always been weight and flexibility. Smart glove-type controllers available on the market now are usually bulky and rigid, as they rely on conventional sensors.

The InfinityGlove overcomes these problems by weaving ultrathin, highly sensitive microfibre sensors into the material of the glove. Each of these stretchable microfibres, about the same thickness as a strand of human hair, is filled with a conductive liquid metal. A small electric current runs through the conductive liquid metal, creating an electrical reading signal that changes when the fibres are bent and as the liquid metal is displaced.

The application of this sensor technology, previously used by the NUS team to measure pulse and bandage pressure, enables the InfinityGlove to accurately map finger gestures for human–machine interaction. Each InfinityGlove contains a total of five thread-like sensors, one for each finger, which can interface with the game software to produce accurate 3D positions of a moving hand. Linked up to the team’s proprietary software, the sensors can rapidly translate the gestures via electrical signals into command inputs at a speed that is almost the same as pressing a button on the keyboard.

“We were very much inspired by the need to remotely control tasks with just hand gestures,” said team leader Professor Lim Chwee Teck. “Current commercially available technology is not very responsive and causes a strain on the user’s hands after prolonged use due to their bulky set-up. We envision that gesture-based control using our lightweight smart gloves can bring us one step closer to a truly immersive interface between humans and machines.”

To date, the team has mapped a total of 11 inputs and commands which allow users to play games such as Battlefield V. Their next steps include extending the glove’s capabilities into the world of virtual reality, complex games and robotic control. Other applications could include hand rehabilitation for patients, as gamification motivates patients to continue their hand exercise regimes through immersive play and medical professionals can track the progress of their patient’s joint movements at the same time.

The team took two years to develop a working prototype of the InfinityGlove and are also producing the microfibre sensors commercially for other applications. This technology is being commercialised by NUS start-up Microtube Technologies, co-founded by Prof Lim with team members Dr Yeo Joo Chuan and Dr Yu Longteng.

Image caption: Professor Lim Chwee Teck with team members Dr Yeo Joo Chuan and Dr Yu Longteng.

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