HaptX debuts bimanual VR gloves at inaugural re:MARS Conference.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos literally went “hands-on” with the future of robotics
this past week during Amazon’s inaugural re:MARS conference in Las Vegas, NV. During a quick pop-in at the HaptX booth, the billionaire tech entrepreneur tried out the company’s new two-handed robotic system that uses a combination of VR gloves, haptics, and sensors to give you the ability to feel objects in VR anywhere in the world.
The bimanual (performed with both hands) system is the first major advancement to the companies original HaptX VR glove, which—at the time—was capable of supporting only a single hand.
Just hours before the highly-anticipated re:MARS conference, HaptX, working with Syntouch and Shadow Robot, successfully integrated the bimanual system to debut their latest improvements, allowing attendees – including Bezos himself – to feel real objects through teleoperation with both hands.
Bezos tweeted “Got a chance to scout some of the cool tech at the first #reMARS event”, along with a video of himself gleefully using the VR gloves to play with a small soccer ball, stack rings together on a dowel, shake someone’s hands and even give two big robotic thumbs up.
Though Bezos isn’t wearing a VR headset during the experience, the potential of HaptX’s new system combined with a VR headset could be a helpful asset in hazardous situations, such as diffusing a bomb, deep-sea exploration, and repairing the exterior of the International Space Station; along with less extreme—but still very dangerous—positions, such as working at a construction site or any other profession that requires the precision of using your physical hands to complete a potentially risky task.
In an interview with VRScout, Andrew Mitrak, Director of Marketing for HaptX talked about having Jeff Bezos visiting their booth, saying, “Jeff Bezos clearly loved controlling robot hands with our gloves. He picked up on how to operate the system much faster than most first-time users.”
Bezos was incredibly impressed with HaptX’s technology, telling Mitrak, “That is really impressive. The tactile feedback is really tremendous.” When one of the onlookers asked how it felt, Bezos exclaimed, “Weirdly natural!”
Getting HaptX’s haptic gloves integrated with the two-handed robotic system for re:MARS required collaboration with London’s Shadow Robot Company and SynTouch – the US-based team that built the VR gloves back in March – along with the financial help of ANA Holdings based in Tokyo, making the project a truly international collaboration.
In a press release, Rich Walker, Managing Director of the Shadow Robot Company said they were already in talks with a UK nuclear establishment to add an extra layer of safety between the worker and the radiation zones while decommissioning nuclear facilities. “Our remotely controlled system can help transform work within risky environments,” said Walker.
Up next for HaptX? Mitrak said, “We’re working to productize this system and open it up to orders from early customers.” The company has already stirred up some significant interest from organizations that would like to purchase the system for research, development, and eventual deployment.