See the original story in Japanese.
Japanese device startup Exiii, well known for its open-source electric-powered prosthetic hands HACKberry, produced using a 3D printer, this week announced the haptic device Exos as its new product under development.
Exos applies pressure directly unto the users’ hand via a built-in motor, to enable users gaining the sensation of touching a virtual object with their hand. This technology is seen being applied to VR (virtual reality) games and robot remote controls, in addition to use in rehabilitation programs for hand movements or the like.
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Along with the boom in VR (virtual reality) / AR (augmented reality) technologies, various devices providing immersive feel for the virtual space have been surfacing. Among these, products focused on the visual sense have recently become attention-grabbers, such as the first-generation device as exemplified by Oculus, which became affiliated with Facebook last year. Since hepatic sense devices are considered to be the next generation following in the visual ones’ footsteps, some projects like UnlimitedHand are now in progress in Japan.
According to Exiii CEO Hiroshi Yamaura, one of the features of Exos is to transmit power unto the users’ hand directly via motors, unlike UnlimitedHand which adopted electric stimulus. It can thus provide a more realistic sense of touching which cannot be realized with vibration or other methods.
However, it is still under development so the unveiled design was the best possible at present, says Yamarura. Some systems adjustments will be required in the future, such as delay reductions upon communicating information to devices when users touch objects in VR space.
Therefore, the firm looks to gather user companies that wish to provide apps using Exos based on its concept announced this time. By the way, when I asked Yamaura about the uniqueness or the superiority of his device, he answered that he does not regard imitation or tailgating by other players as much of a problem because the firm owns patents related to mechanism or knowledge obtained through its prosthetic hands development and he himself is an expert of exoskeleton functions.
Unfortunately, I could not actually wear and try this device at this time. I cannot say anything definite about how much this device will give us an impression at present but expect that it is not just a conceptual product, judging from the firm’s background of prosthetic hands development and the demonstration video of the prototype.
On the other hand, the actual usage scene / environment for Exos appears to depend on the app developers. It is hoped that the device will be put into production within two or three years when the VR market is expected to become a very active one.
Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy