Microsoft is working on a smart glove, patent shows

Microsoft is working on a smart glove
Smart fabrics are one of the technologies we’ve been promised a long time ago, and while many companies are working on the subject, the final products still seem absent from retail stores. One of the big problems with this kind of technology is that it requires certain flexibility to be practical. On the other hand, wearable devices are made of stiff materials in order to incorporate electronics and input/output interfaces.

A new patent filed back in 2018 and published by the US Patent & Trademark Office last week reveals Microsoft’s approach to the issue at hand. The company is working on a smart glove device with regions of varying stiffness, MSPoweruser reports. The rigid part of the glove can house hardware components which are tough to integrate into a flexible fabric: vibration motors, controllers, silicon components, etc. The fingers of the glove remain flexible, accommodating various motion-restricting devices that can apply force to the user’s hand while maintaining wearability.

This will allow for new ways of haptic feedback - in VR for example. Imagine you wear a VR headset and interact with objects in the virtual reality. The smart glove will let you feel each object differently, by applying a different motion-restriction pattern to your fingers. It’ll be as you are holding an actual object in your hand. It will work both ways - you’ll be able to input commands like pulling the trigger of a virtual shotgun by flexing your index finger.

Microsoft describes several ways of achieving the regions of various stiffness, including a more robust knitting pattern for the fabric, a special polymer which changes its flexibility gradually, and a number of small circular structures varying in size and thickness. According to the filings, this smart glove will work with more conventional peripherals such as keyboards, mice, touchscreens, and gaming controllers.

It’s also worth noting that other companies like Sony and Samsung are exploring the smart fabrics territory with their own iterations of the smart glove idea. Before getting too excited though, remember that companies file hundreds of patents annually, and most of the concepts don’t make it to the market.

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