ThermAirGlove: A Pneumatic Glove for Thermal Perception and Material Identification in Virtual Reality

We present ThermAirGlove (TAGlove), a pneumatic glove which provides thermal feedback for users, to support the haptic experience of grabbing objects of different temperatures and materials in virtual reality (VR). The system consists of a glove with five inflatable airbags on the fingers and the palm, two temperature chambers (one hot and one cold), and the closed-loop pneumatic thermal control system. Our technical experiments showed that the highest temperature-changing speed of TAGlove system was 2.75 oC/s for cooling, and the pneumatic-control mechanism could generate the thermal cues of different materials (e.g., foam, glass, copper, etc.).

The user-perception experiments showed that the TAGlove system could provide five distinct levels of thermal sensation (ranging from very cool to very warm). The user-perception experiments also showed that the TAGlove could support users’ material identification among foam, glass, and copper with the average accuracy of 87.2%, with no significant difference compared to perceiving the real physical objects. The user studies on VR experience showed that using TAGlove in immersive VR could significantly improved users’ experience of presence compared to the situations without any temperature or material simulation.