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.
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.