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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.

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For modern soldiers, “managing all the information that’s out there is almost overwhelming when you’re supposed to be focused on your own safety on patrol,” says Gerry Mayer, director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories in Cherry Hill, N.J. “And with robots, you have to have a dedicated amount of time and energy to maneuver the robot, and you’re taking away from your own safety. So if you don’t have capabilities such as these that AnthroTronix is working on, we’re going to cause the soldiers on patrol to take time away from the serious business that they’re in and spend time managing either information or robots.”

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Sensors in the gloves could “passively” pass along other vital information, says Jack Vice, president and cofounder of AnthroTronix. For example, they could keep track of how much ammunition soldiers have fired and alert a platoon commander that his troops are running low.

Assuming the AcceleGlove catches on, the company wants to develop a new version that will include more accelerometers to capture motion with even higher fidelity and a digital compass that could reveal which direction it is pointed. A robot could be instructed, “Hey, go that direction 300 meters,” using signals from the glove alone, says Mr. Vice, who served as part of a Marine infantry special operations unit for six years.

While other companies are working on glove-based controllers, AnthroTronix “seems to be about the furthest along in having a practical, useful system,” says Mr. Mayer, who has teamed up with AnthroTronix on a number of projects.

A potential investor is impressed. “I think it’s the future.... Look at how we’re flying those armed drones: You have people in the United States who are flying planes in Iraq. It’s pretty amazing,” says Andrew Sachs, the founder and managing director of Sachs Capital, a private equity fund in Bethesda, Md., who has followed AnthroTronix for several years and is considering investing.

“The applications are endless when you think about interacting with things,” he says. “We’re just starting to figure this stuff out and what the possibilities are.”

In the years ahead, Lathan says, such gloves could become a kind of “virtual mouse” controlling much of the way we interact with computers and machines, much in the way the futuristic movie “Minority Report” depicted.

But the keyboard and mouse might still be used for a long time to come, especially to enter text. “The QWERTY keyboard was designed [in the 19th century] to be completely inefficient so that you didn’t jam typewriter [keys],” Lathan says. And yet we can’t get rid of it. “We’ll still have a keyboard. We’ll still have a mouse. Maybe it will all be virtual.”