AcceleGlove: The future of motion at your fingertips
AnthroTronix's glove allows the wearer to control objects such as robots and video games with hand motions.
A group of American soldiers is on patrol in hostile territory. Suddenly, the squad leader realizes they’ve stumbled onto the edge of what may be a minefield and quickly gives a hand signal to halt. His troops don’t have to be watching him or even be able to see him to get his signal: They feel it as a vibration in a special belt or vest they’re wearing. Using a different set of hand signals, the leader then directs an unmanned robotic vehicle to investigate the possible mines, keeping his fighters out of harm’s way.Skip to next paragraph
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This futuristic scenario may not be far off. The battlefield is fast becoming a high-tech arena. But as soldiers use technology to gain a better understanding of their surroundings, they also risk being overloaded with information.
That’s where “haptics,” or tactile feedback technology, comes in. Fighters’ eyes and ears are being bombarded by data, not only the sights and sounds of the battlefield but information from audio and video sources. Rather than overwhelming the eyes and ears, haptics taps into a different sense. For example, it can collect data through motion controls or relay information through vibration.
Consumer products such as Apple’s iPhone and Nintendo’s Wii game controller have already adopted haptics, using sensors called accelerometers to pick up on spins, shakes, and button presses, then they respond with a buzz or vibration.
A new product called the AcceleGlove, which went on sale in May, capitalizes on the shrinking cost of accelerometers and rapid processing power. The glove is studded with accelerometers, which can track the movement of a hand and individual fingers. Altogether, they allow the wearer to control other devices, from robots to video games.
AnthroTronix Inc. of Silver Spring, Md., a research and development company, hopes to adapt its AcceleGlove for law enforcement, firefighting, controlling robots in space or in dangerous industrial settings, rehabilitation, hand-motion studies, telemedicine, and as a computer interface with video games and virtual reality.
At $499, “you’re talking [about a price] that any grad student” could afford to conduct research, says Cori Lathan, founder and CEO of AnthroTronix.
The glove could be a teaching tool for anything from learning American Sign Language to practicing a sensitive surgical procedure. Baseball players might use the glove to study their grip and throwing motion.
“Our hope is that the [video] gaming community will develop applications,” Ms. Lathan says. If the gloves are produced in large quantities, she anticipates the price could drop to about $200 each.
Right now, AnthroTronix is “probably right in the middle of the valley of death” for being adopted by the military – beyond the research phase but waiting for an actual order, Lathan says. The company currently receives research funding from the US Army, Navy, and Air Force and has received money from the Department of Defense’s research-and-development agency.