Building a DIY Data-Glove (Part 1)


 

For quite some time I have been waiting for a good data-glove to hit the market for use with virtual reality applications. So far the only consumer product that has come remotely close was the P5 glove, which was probably one of the biggest disappointments in my life. Although better data-gloves have existed since the 90’s, they have been so expensive to only be attainable by large corporations or the government. So with nothing really available off-the-shelf, I have decided to build my own.

Virtual Reality cannot really be had using archaic input devices like the keyboard and the mouse. While fine for web-browsing, they just don’t cut it for immersive interactive 3D  experiences. Tracking hand and finger movements just seem like a very intuitive way to interact with a virtual world. Although there are devices, like the Razer Hydra, that capture some of these elements, it’s just not the VR I dreamed of as a kid if you don’t don the gloves.

Currently I am evaluating good orientation trackers (rather, an inertial measurement unit or IMU). I found the Pololu MinIMU-9 v2 and it seems to fit the bill. The price, at $40, is not too shabby either. It does not come with a USB interface or anything fancy like that, so I had to solder some connections myself and use an Arduino to interface with the PC. Even so, the package is not bad at all. As you can see in the video, the tracking is decent. Maybe not the best I have ever seen, but certainly workable. I’m pretty sure it’s giving better performance than the Hillcrest Labs unit I was previously using, but it’s hard to say just by looking at a quick demo. Anyway, I’m happy with my $40 dollars.

Next up I will be looking at flex sensors to track finger movement. These ones from Spectra Symbol look nice and were supposedly used in the Nintendo PowerGlove (which could be bad or good depending on how you look at it). Hopefully those sensors won’t be too hard to get running, as it would be very convenient to grab parts like these off the shelf. Especially if I want to post the instructions online so other people can build their own.

Finally I will need to construct a proper positional tracking system so physical movement will be mirrored in the simulation. I have a couple of ideas for this, though I still have a lot to experiment with. Stay tuned.

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