Manus Machina, a tech startup based in the Netherlands, have released a video preview of what they’re calling ‘the first consumer VR glove’ ahead of its appearance at E3 2015 where the device will quite literally be on hand for demonstrations.
I first came across Manus Machina back in August last year. Bob Vlemmix, PR Officer at Manus Machina, introduced himself to me clutching a Tupperware box containing the beginnings of a new input device, a VR glove. It was a very early prototype, wires everywhere, reminiscent of a low-budget 80s sci-fi prop. We were attending an impromptu meetup organised by Daan Kip of the Dutch VR Meetup, the venue was Gamescom 2014 in Cologne, Germany – a month after Manus Machina was founded. Bob proceeded to demo the glove to all in attendance, and despite the crudeness of the demo itself, reactions were positive.
The company launched a Kickstarter campaign in August 2014 which was unfortunately unsuccessful. Undeterred, the team has made real progress, since growing to 15 staff with their prototype hardware evolving rapidly.
Fast forward to now, and the folks at Manus Machina are poised to unleash their latest prototype at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles next month. To whet appetites ahead of the show, the team have released a video demonstrating what we can expect to see at there.
The gloves are wireless and the teams press shots (one including a user wearing a Gear VR) seeming to to suggest Bluetooth connectivity. The video is quite intriguing, with some latency on show (although this could be the panel used in the video) but also what looks to be a good range of movement and finger motion tracking. The video features a prototype tech demo application allowing the user to morph their hands into rocket launchers – what’s not to like there? The system looks to use onboard IMUs to gauge hand movement and rotation in real space in lieu of any obvious optical tracking system.
As we enter the second era of virtual reality (redux), attention is fast switching away from visualisation and display issues to the problems of VR user input. Manus Machina’s troubled past may well be dovetailing perfectly as VR heads rapidly towards the consumer market. It’ll be interesting to see how the unit stacks up against competition from the likes of Control VR and ultimately Valve’s Lighthouse. And, lest we forget, Oculus is rumoured to be announcing details of their input solution very soon too. The next 12 months is shaping up to be the busiest ever for VR input.