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Data Glove

Home Built Data Glove
The Plan

To design and build my own inexpensive data gloves. The data gloves I plan on building will be fairly primitive in comparison to high end data gloves but will be good enough to allow me to interact with my 3D world in an intuitive manner. Similar commercially available data gloves are usually in the $400 - $500 range and I expect to build these for much less than that. The data gloves will only have 5 sensors, one for each finger. Each sensor will measure the bend of the finger and convert that to a value that can be used to manipulate the hands on my virtual character within my virtual world. I want to be able to pick up simple objects and move them around, or touch other objects and interact with virtual controls. I won't need a lot of accuracy to do this. I am not including trackers in the actual glove project as they will be added separately. If someone has any suggestions or requests, please don't hesitate to contact me through the Contact page.

Light tube bend sensor
A very simple bend sensor and components.

For the bend sensors I will be taking an example from the book 'Virtual Reality Homebrewer's Handbook' by Robin Hollands. It uses a very simple system with an IR led on one end of a piece of plastic tubing, and an IR phototransistor on the other end. With a few resistors the output will be a voltage that varies depending to the amount of IR light shining on the phototransistor. When the tube is straight the maximum amount of light from the led will strike the phototransistor. As the tube is bent the amount of light will decrease, thus varying the voltage. It is quite simple to measure this voltage and convert to a digital value using a microcontroller with an ADC. The image to the right shows the components for a light sensor, plus one assembled. Click on the image to see a larger view.

The first data glove
My first data glove.

Even though my data glove will be fairly primitive I want them to look as professional as possible so I started by sourcing some decent gloves. I found the perfect gloves in a hardware store being sold as work gloves and they were only $20 a pair. To hide the workings of the data glove I decided to use some black material and sew some small cloth tubes to enclose the sensors. Then by sewing the cloth tubes to the fingers of the gloves the sensors will be held in place and still have some movement when the fingers are flexed. Rather than use a microcontroller for each glove the dsPIC33F4013 that I used with my tracker has a 13 channel 12 bit ADC which is perfect for me to read the sensors from 2 gloves. This way I can have the cables from each glove run to a central controller which I will mount on a belt, and from there have either a serial cable to plug into a com port, or a wireless connection. To keep the cables from the gloves nice and neat I found some 7 strand coily cables which are perfect. The image to the left shows the completed glove.

Posted: 26th July 2008.

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