PowerClaw is a haptic glove that lets you feel heat, cold, and a number of sensations on the tips of your fingers. Coming to Gamescom 2016 right after the recent launch of their IndieGogo campaign, the team is now showing off a near finished version of their hardware in hopes that the burgeoning virtual reality industry will make way for a glove that effectively lets you feel VR.

In the business center of Gamescom 2016, I happened upon PowerClaw, a Mexican start up that’s integrated a series of miniature motors and thermoelectric cells into a glove that really lets you feel the cold of an ice cube, the heat of a flame, and simulates electric shocks and whatever else you can possibly simulate via the spasmatic whirring of the same hardware you find in ordinary smartphones.

Putting on the glove and seating the individual haptic units onto the tips of my fingers correctly, I was put through a virtual torture chamber of ice guns, flame throwers, needle machines, and electric shocks to demonstrate the haptic power of the glove while using the Oculus Rift DK2. Interactions like the last two mentioned depend purely on the frequency and duration of the motors’ buzzing – something that, given the right visual cues, can be surprisingly convincing.

All of this however was done without any sort of tracking, a duty that PowerClaw has rested on the backs of optical hand tracking devices like Leap Motion.

The gloves each had a thick cable leading to a single 3D printed breakout box that provided the voltage necessary to run the glove’s interactions. A single USB connection snaked back to the computer driving the demo from the box.

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powerclaw box

After popping out of the gloves and making sure the tips of my fingers were in good shape, project creator Alyed Tzompa told me that until they cranked down the voltage to the current setting, the thermoelectric components actually had the ability to burn developers’ finger tips. (mine were just fine)

PowerClaw is currently bottoming out at $595 for a pair of gloves (super early bird special), a steep price for something that doesn’t really work out of the box in VR without the aid of a separate and decidedly imperfect tracking solution (although with Leap Motion’s Orion update tracking has improved).

The company will be releasing their SDK and a number of development examples upon release of the haptic gloves, which is slated for delivery in February 2017.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 4,000 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • I think people want a sense of touch, but I’m not sure that we’re looking for suffering out of the box.

    • Krystalmyth

      Nobody is looking to get crushed by giant rocks, fall in lava or get eaten alive by man-eating plants but they sure added to making Mario a memorable experience for nearly every one around the world. Suffering makes life feel important. If the illusion of fire in front of you looks real but you don’t negotiate it like real fire, its a projection, if you acknowledge its an illusion but engage with it as if it were real, then it’s virtual. Projected reality is and has been done in gaming and film for generations. What is being aimed for in VR is something greater. That requires suffering, something we humans understand very well, is a universal part of reality.

      • But that was Mario’s suffering, not my own.

        When I slip on a banana and fall down a manhole, that’s tragedy. When you slip and fall on a banana down a manhole, that’s comedy.

        I’m not sure, but I’m guessing one of the greatest challenges of designing for VR will be balancing the sense of genuine presence (I-ness) with the need to create challenge.

        We already know that people in VR environments don’t like to get shot, although they’re happy to absorb bullets like sponges through screens. I’m curious to see where this subtle but key difference leads us.

        • Dadamlarson

          3rd person perspective tends to evoke a wicked laughtah empathy kid. Plus who doesn’t like apples.

          It’s a scary road that reeks of RF1 but the pros far out weight the cons. I think what people will settle for in VR is much closer than we all think. Society has pretty much checked out people are afraid of a presidential republican nominee.

          I shouldn’t have even commented but I like both of your two comments so much that I just had to add my 2 cents.

  • Francesco Caroli

    So cool

  • Nakor

    Not a great technology on it’s own. It would need to be combined with other tech like Dexta’s glove.