What happens when you're immersed in a virtual world – such as a game – and you want to use your real-world fingers to control your virtual fingers in that world? Well, we've already seen a number of sensor-equipped gloves, but China's Dexta Robotics is taking what it claims is a more cost-effective approach. Its Dexmo is an exoskeleton for your hand, which can even provide the user with a limited sense of touch.
The base model, the Dexmo Classic, utilizes relatively inexpensive rotational sensors to capture the movements of your hand in 11 degrees of freedom. This includes the rotation of the thumb, the bending of the individual fingers, and the degree to which they split apart from one another. It also uses a single IMU (inertial measurement unit) to track the hand's movement through space on X, Y and Z axes.
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With this version, users can do things like manipulating the individual fingers of on-screen avatars, creating animated hand models, controlling real-world robotic devices or software using finger gestures, or even translating American Sign Language gestures to text.
The Dexmo F2, however, adds force feedback to the equation. It does so via actuator-controlled disc brakes in the device's individual finger joints, which physically keep one or more of the user's real fingers from moving when the corresponding virtual fingers come up against a virtual object.
This feature allows users to get the sensation of actually pressing or holding onto computer-generated items, although it does only work in an on/off fashion – either the joints move freely, or not at all.
Both models are wireless, communicating with the user's computer via Bluetooth.
They're also both currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, aimed at raising production funds. A pledge of US$65 will get you a development kit that includes a Dexmo Classic, while $159 is required for a kit with an F2. Assuming all goes according to plans, shipping is scheduled for next June.
You can see the two Dexmo exoskeletons in use, in the following pitch video.