A start-up company claims to have developed an affordable exoskeleton for the human hand which provides both input and true digital force feedback to allow users to 'feel' a virtual object in the real world.
China-based Dexta Robotics has previously designed a robotic hand dubbed the Handurino and a servo-based exoskeleton system for the hand dubbed the Dexmo Classic. When worn on all five fingers, the Dexmo is claimed to act as an input device with eleven degrees of freedom: three for the thumb and splay and bend of each finger. When coupled with an inverse kinematic algorithm, the software translates this input into an accurate model of the human hand far more detailed than the grasp-or-release of previous designs.
The company now claims to have gone one further with the Dexmo F2, which adds force feedback to the mix. Using a disc braking system fitted to the servos of the thumb and index finger, the system can stop the user's fingers when the reach a certain point - allowing the wearer to 'feel' a virtual object, or receive touch feedback from a robotic arm. While limited to just the finger and thumb in the present design, the system is claimed to dramatically increase the precision with which manipulation can be carried out as well as the immersion within a virtual environment.
The company claims that the Dexmo devices will be sold at around $200, making them considerably more affordable than all but optical-based finger tracking systems like the Leap Motion while offering similar - though less detailed - feedback to the Novint Falcon
released back in 2007. With virtual reality hitting new strides thanks to the popularity of the Oculus Rift headset, Dexta may have picked the perfect time to break into the market.
The company is taking interest registrations for an early-model prototype dubbed the Dexmo Beta, which will be followed by the Dexmo Classic and Dexmo F2. Final pricing has yet to be confirmed, with more details available on the official website
. Alternatively, you can see the device in action - linked to a pair of robotic arms - in the below video.