Smart gloves let long-distance lovers touch
Toronto: Long-distance couples may soon share a walk, watch movies together and even give each other amassage, thanks to a technology being developed by scientists.
Carman Neustaedter from Simon Fraser University in Canada and team have designed a pair of interconnected gloves called Flex-NFeel. When fingers “flex” in one glove, actions are transmitted to a remote partner wearing the other. The glove’s tactile sensors allow the wearer to “feel” the movements.
To capture the flex actions, the sensors are attached to a micro controller. The sensors provide a value for each bend, and are transmitted to the “feel” glove using a WiFi module. The sensors are also placed strategically on palm side of the fingers so the touch can be felt better. A soft switch on both gloves also allows either partner to initiate the touch.
“Users can make intimate gestures such as touching the face, holding hands and giving a hug. The act of bending or flexing one’s finger is a gentle and subtle way to mimic touch,” said Neustaedter.
While one set of gloves enabled one-way remote touch between partners, Neustaedter said a second set could allow both to share touches at the same time. In the works are other projects that focus on shared experiences, including a virtual reality video conferencing system that lets one “see through the eyes” of a remote partner, and another that enables users to video stream a remote partner’s activities to a long-distance partner at home (called Be With Me).
The researchers are also studying how next-generation telepresence robots can help unite couples and participate in activities together. They have embedded a robot, designed by Suitable Technologies, into several homes in Canada, which connects to countries around the world.
“Long-distance relationships are more common today, but distance don’t have to mean missing out on having a physical presence and sharing space,” said Neustaedter. “If people cannot physically be together, we’re hoping to create the next best technological solutions.”
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