Update, 4/3/17, 4:20am PT: The CaptoGlove surpassed its $50,000 Kickstarter goal in just 13 days. The company also announced a stretch goal that will add pressure sensitivity to the thumb part of the glove (<100g to >10kg). The folks behind CaptoGlove said that “this will enable future customization, as well as more precise measurements of what the finger is doing,” which apparently will take the form of its “CaptoHaptic Kit.”
The company also said that the gloves are in production and on track to ship to early Kickstarter backers in May.
Original article, 3/20/17, 1:10pm PT:
The CaptoGlove is an input device (er, garment?) meant for a variety of platforms–its creator seems to be aiming for “platform agnostic”–including the PC, mobile devices, and for XR. It’s designed to allow you to ditch standard input devices such as gamepads, keyboards, and mice, and the company making it, also called CaptoGlove, has just launched a Kickstarter campaign.
It’s important to understand what the CaptoGlove is and isn’t. When we tried out the CaptoGlove at GDC, we played through a VR version of Left For Dead, and the CaptoGlove served as our trigger finger. Regardless of the weapon we wielded, we stalked around with our right hand in a “gun” gesture, and we pulled an imaginary trigger with our right index finger to blast zombies. It also detects motion, so you as you move your hand, your view can move around, too. The glove offers 10 degrees of freedom (10Dof), and the company said that each glove can support up to 20 individual controls. With a pair of CaptoGloves, then, one could enjoy 40 different controls.
However, the CaptoGlove is not a hand tracker–it’s a motion controller. That is, it doesn’t recreate your hands in VR, for example; it lets you essentially remap input controls, and in doing so, it enables the 10DoF, which comes quite naturally because it responds to your hand movement.
In the L4D demo, because the CaptoGlove was in this case mapped to the shooting controls, it’s not as if our hand was replicated in the VR environment. This is, then, not a camera-based uSens or Leap Motion hand tracker, nor a Finch VR-type hand controller, nor for that matter even quite like the tracked controllers for Rift and Vive. It was about the input, not so much about the hand tracking, in this particular demo.
However, the CaptoGlove’s capabilities can be expanded. You can add “CaptoSensors” for “more advanced positional tracking of arms and hands,” according to the Kickstarter page, and the CaptoGlove was accepted into the Vive Tracker program.
Even so, CaptoGlove is probably overselling the XR capabilities. By contrast, the company may be underselling its use as an accessibility device. In fact, that’s the origin story of the glove; someone in their circle had an injury that prevented them from effectively using a mouse or keyboard, and they got the idea of a glove-as-input-device. Because the CaptoGlove is a motion controller, and lets you perform actions with programmable taps, gestures, and the like, it could help lots of people with certain limitations more easily and naturally control their phones, PC, and VR experiences.
The CaptoGlove already works with Windows, Android, iOS, and even some smart TVs. It uses a “dead reckoning” system to track your movements and recognizes hand input for controls including roll, pitch, yaw, acceleration, and more. You can use five-finger bends to make something happen, and the fingertips of the gloves are pressure-sensitive. It appears that individual fingers can be mapped to separate controls, so, for example, a bend of the forefinger, middle finger, and ring finger could all trigger different events.
It connects to devices primarily via BTLE, but below is the full list of platform compatibility and connectivity:
Microsoft Windows 8-10 via BTLE connection
Microsoft Windows 7 via non BTLE connection (Windows 7 do not support BTLE, Wi-Fi required)
Microsoft Windows 7-8-10 via USB cable connection
iOS & 4th Generation and above Apple TV via BTLE connection
Android mobile devices via BTLE connection
Android Smart TV consoles via BTLE connection (coming soon)
BTLE gaming consoles (coming soon)
BTLE Raspberry Pi (Linux Support)
When connected to a device via USB, the system recognizes CaptoGlove as a human interface device (HID). You can customize preset controls or create your own; generally speaking, a CaptoGlove rep told us, the company has tried to make configuration software simple. It even has an app. Calibration is designed to be quick and easy, too.
The glove can offer analog input, too, detecting levels of bending or pushing. The fabric is capacitive, so you can leave the glove on and tap on your phone screen without taking it off–which if nothing else is helpful, in practice, for when you’re fiddling with your phone to set up VR experiences with your mobile HMD.
The CaptoGlove team said that the device supports “all existing VR headsets” and listed the Rift, Vive, Gear VR, and Google Cardboard as examples. It also said that the glove can take the place of the gamepad for any mobile game. Console support is forthcoming, and the company is currently developing haptic feedback support.
There’s an SDK for developers, and the CaptoGlove supports the Unity game engine. The PCB where the magic happens (which also houses the battery) is just 4x4cm, and the battery life promises to give you 10-13 hours of juice.
We should note that the glove itself–the fit, feel, and fabric–appeared to be of high quality. (We did not get a chance to feel the interior of the glove with our bare hands, because CaptoGlove mercifully provided plastic “gloves”–like the kind food preparers wear when assembling your sandwich–so GDC attendees weren’t sharing any germs unnecessarily.)
You can snag a CaptoGlove for $160 via the Kickstarter. A representative told us that the retail version will cost $250. Kickstarter backers will get theirs starting in May; there’s no word on when everyone else can buy one.