VPL DataGlove


VPL DataGlove, by Thomas Zimmerman 1982

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The VPL DataGlove was built by Thomas Zimmerman, who also patented the optical flex sensors used by the gloves. Like the Sayre glove, these sensors had fibre optic cables with a light at one end, and a photodiode at the other. Zimmerman had also built a simplified version, called the Z-glove, which he had attached to his Commodore 64. This device measured the angles of each of the first two knuckles of the fingers using the fibre optic devices, and was usually combined with a Polhemus tracking device. Some also had abduction measurements. This was really the first commercially available glove, however at about $9000 was prohibitively expensive. The Dataglove (originally developed by VPL Research) was a neoprene fabric glove with two fiber optic loops on each finger. Each loop was dedicated to one knuckle, which occasionally caused a problem. If a user had extra large or small hands, the loops would not correspond very well to the actual knuckle position and the user was not able to produce very accurate gestures. At one end of each loop was an LED and at the other end a photosensor. The fiber optic cable had small cuts along its length. When the user bent a finger, light escaped from the fiber optic cable through these cuts. The amount of light reaching the photosensor was measured and converted into a measure of how much the finger was bent. The Dataglove required recalibration for each user, and often for the same user over a session's duration. Coupled with a problem of fatigue (because of the stiffness) it failed to reach the market penetration that was anticipated.