CES: Contact CI Shows Maestro EP Haptic Feedback Gloves

Ohio-based startup Contact CI has launched its Maestro EP haptic gloves that work by mirroring the human body’s sheathed tendon design. They provide light- to moderate-haptic feedback by pulling on a cloth sock covering each fingertip. There is also vibrotactile feedback technology in the glove’s fingertips. The “multi-force ergonomic haptics” product is compatible with any system designed for hand tracking (for example: Meta Quest 2). The Department of Defense and enterprises are already purchasing the gloves at $3,750 a pair, primarily for simulation training purposes, while Contact CI continues to improve the design for a wider commercial rollout.

Unlike other haptic feedback gloves that use a mechanical rigging on the back of the hand to physically push and pull on fingertips, the Maestro EP has sheathed cables that move imperceptibly between the forearm-mounted mechanism housing and the fingertips. The lightweight housing looks bulky, but during my demo inside a VR headset it had no impact on my experience. That is probably because it is sewn into the forearm sheath so the glove and forearm move as a unit.

All of the haptic feedback is in the fingertips so pushing buttons and flipping switches is a natural and effective application. However, catching objects was less effective because they involve your palm more than your fingertips.

In Contact CI’s CES 2023 press release, USAF simulator chief innovation officer Margaret Merkel weighed in on the quality of the Maestro DK3 haptic interactions: “Contact CI has done an excellent job of blending force feedback and vibrotactile feedback, they have been able to create complex tangible interactions like switchology tasks inside VR cockpits while using a wireless lightweight wearable glove.”

While Contact CI is selling the gloves in their current form, it is clear from the care required to put the gloves on properly that the design has to be made simpler and more robust. However, their embedded cable approach enables them to withstand rugged use, so they have the potential of being a successful consumer peripheral product.

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