A Microsoft VR Glove patent published in Europe describes their accessory applying equally to future Xbox games & commercial applications

Although Apple’s published patent filings for VR glove began to roll out in 2019, the bulk of them were published in 2021 (01, 02, 03, 04, 05 and 06). Some of filings revealed that Apple’s work on VR Gloves dates back 2016 or six years ago. Apple kept their work on VR Gloves as secretive as possible, for as long as possible. This week a published VR Glove patent from Microsoft published in Europe shows that they too are now working on VR Gloves.

In 2020, Microsoft Research published a video on one of their possible future VR accessories called the PIVOT as presented in the video below.

For more on the possible future PIVOT accessory read the full UploadVR report.

Earlier this month Europe’s WIPO published Microsoft’s patent EP3977239. Microsoft’s engineers state that tactile receptors of the human body, such as mechanoreceptors and nociceptors, detect mechanical stimuli and provide tactile sensations of pressure, vibration, skin stretch, etc. For example, a person may experience a pressure sensation on a finger pad, and also resistance to further motion, while the user touches or grasps a real object. However, such feedback is not sensed when interacting with virtual objects in a VR or VIR experience, which may make the experience seem less realistic.

In this way, a wearable device, such as a glove device, may be worn to provide such feedback. Some such devices include a clutch mechanism to selectively restrict motion of an articulable joint, such as a finger joint, so that the user senses resistance to motion at the apparent surface of a virtual object. While such a motion-restricting device may simulate a reactive force from a solid object that is felt on a joint, the device may not provide a realistic tactile sensation on the finger pads, palm, and / or other surface of a body that “contacts” the virtual object.

In order to provide the sensation of contact in VR and MR experiences, some wearable devices may include a haptic actuator configured to vibrate or press against the skin, in addition to an actuator to restrict joint motion. However, such devices may utilize separate actuation hardware for the motion restriction and tactile sensations, which may increase the cost, size, and complexity of a wearable device that includes both a clutch mechanism and a tactile simulator.

Accordingly, examples of haptic feedback devices that may address such issues are disclosed. Briefly, the disclosed examples utilize a motion restriction mechanism, such as a clutch mechanism, to both restrict motion and provide tactile feedback, thereby providing motion restriction and tactile feedback without using separate actuation hardware. This may help to provide a more compact form factor that is more comfortable.

One disclosed example provides a wearable article comprising a base configured to be worn on a body part, a force-applying mechanism coupled with the base, and a haptic feedback apparatus coupled with the base. The haptic feedback apparatus comprising a lever supported by a frame and coupled with the force-applying mechanism, the lever positioned to move relative to the frame and apply pressure on a surface of the body part when a force is applied by the force applying mechanism.

Another disclosed example provides a wearable article configured to provide haptic feedback, the wearable article comprising a base configured to be worn on a body part, a force-applying mechanism coupled with the base, a force-transferring component coupled with the base and also coupled with the force-applying mechanism, the force-transferring component comprising a spine and at least one branch extending from the spine, the at least one branch configured to wrap partially around the body part, and a pressure-applying component configured to be positioned relative to the body part such that a force applied by the force-applying mechanism is transferred to the pressure-applying component via the force-transferring component and causes the pressure-applying component to apply pressure on the surface of the body part.

Another example provides a wearable article configured to provide haptic feedback, the wearable article comprising a fabric base configured to be worn on a body part, a force-applying mechanism coupled with the fabric base, and a haptic feedback apparatus molded onto the fabric base, the haptic feedback apparatus comprising a lever supported by a frame and coupled with the force-applying mechanism, the lever positioned to move relative to the frame and apply pressure on a surface of the body part when a force is applied by the force-applying mechanism.

Microsoft’s patent FIG. I below shows an example use scenario in which a wearable article utilizes a haptic feedback apparatus to simulate a tactile interaction with a virtual object; FIG. 2 schematically shows an example wearable article comprising a haptic feedback apparatus; FIGS. 9-11 illustrate examples of haptic feedback apparatus elements.

The Metaverse sounds promising, but it’s definitely years away. While Meta offers game controllers for their headsets today, VR Gloves are likely to be the next big thing for VR headsets that will give users a next-generation tactile experience that will make exploring VR worlds much more realistic.

Here the race is on between Oculus / Meta, Microsoft, Apple and other players. Although Meta and Microsoft are well ahead of Apple with headsets, Apple’s patents are detailing some truly advanced features that will allow the company to hit the market running in the next year or so as to take on today’s established players.

For now, Microsoft is aiming for their latest VR Glove patent at multiple markets to advance the markets that their HoloLens device is currently addressing. The patent specifically points to aiming their future VR gloves for gaming, industrial, commercial and healthcare scenarios. Microsoft’s work on this accessory began in 2019.

16.1AF Patently Mobile - Patent Application

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