This Keyglove design is not the only thing out there. There are actually quite a few different devices in existence that are at least a little bit similar to what I’m building. It’s quite obvious that glove-based input devices are a recurring theme throughout the history of computers. The world is just waiting for somebody to make something more convenient than a keyboard and mouse, and to do it just right. What exactly is just right? Only the market will tell. In the interest of fairness and inspiration, here is a list of the other devices I’ve come across so far that are built at least a little bit like this one. If you know of any others—your own or otherwise—please feel free to let me know.
Note that I have tried to organize these in chronological order, with the most recent devices being at the top. The dates shown reflect the most accurate information I was able to come up with about each device’s first publishing date. These dates may not be accurate, but they’re as close as I can find. If you have more or different information about any of the stuff shown here, I welcome your corrections.
I came across the MouseGlove by Marco Ramilli when I was looking up information on accelerometers and the Arduino board. The MouseGlove looks a lot like my current glove prototype, except that (1) it doesn’t have a zillion sensors for keys, (2) the Arduino board is mounted right on the back of the glove, and (3) it has an accelerometer on the palm side of the glove. It’s also functionally different in that it is only designed for mouse movements, not keypresses. The wire sensors sewn into the thumbtip and two fingertips are used to trigger mouse clicks. It is a great design for a mouse-only device.
The WearaBraille from the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute is a glove-like device that uses motion detection and a flat surface to imitate a Braille keyboard such as the Perkins Brailler. The website states that “[their] prototype device functions much like a Braille keyboard, but instead of buttons for each finger to press, there are accelerometers on the back of each finger, near the knuckles (keeping the palms and finger tips free). When a finger taps on a table top or other firm surface, the WearaBraille knows that the Braille dot associated with that finger is part of the current character. By tapping multiple fingers simultaneously to indicate multi-dot characters, the WearaBraille user can type text, as well as moving the cursor and performing other system control functions.” It seems to be a good application of motion detection and chording to provide a convenient way for people already familiar with the Braille alphabet to type sans-keyboard.
The SudoGlove is a Cornell Engineering project by Jeremy Blum and colleagues back in May of 2010. It uses flex sensors and a digital gyro to control an RC car (though that was only a test case, and the glove could easily be used in other areas since the source code is open). The SudoGlove is also powered by an Arduino, and also makes use of XBee close-range radio modules to allow the glove to communicate with the RC car. All in all, it’s another very interesting addition to the whole glove control family.
The Glove Mouse is an MIT project by project by Tony Hyun Kim and Nevada Sanchez which demonstrated intuitive control of a map application using only one’s hands. The gloves combine pushbuttons for direct action with a visually distinct fingertip cap that can be tracked by a webcam to provide mouse cursor control. The design incorporates an ATTiny MCU to run each glove, powered by a lithium polymer battery and augmented by a simple wireless link (in the 2010 revision). The downside is the required external camera, but with that in mind these gloves function somewhat like a single-finger Kinect.
The Clove 2 is remarkably similar in concept to the Keyglove. It uses the same basic touch combination procedure and allows for full customization through software. However, it only supports 1-to-1 touch combinations, and requires the use of toggled modifier keys to achieve most keys (all lowercase letters can be achieved without modifiers though). The most remarkable aspect of this glove to me is its use of a Bluetooth interface that is cannibalized from an existing wireless keyboard. I think I would have more luck with a new dedicated module, especially for adding mouse capabilities, but what the Clove 2′s designer has done is pretty amazing. The linked page gives detailed instructions for how to build the glove and what parts to use, if you are interested.
|Peregrine Gaming Glove
The Peregrine is a well-established glove targeted towards the gaming community. It uses variable-position touch detection (likely via a programmable analog voltage range set) and conductive thread throughout. The glove has 18 touch points and 3 “activator pads” which can generate 30 unique operations. It does not have any motion-based mouse control though. The build quality of this glove is nice; it looks great and reportedly performs well. Of all the gloves in this list, this is the one I will most try to emulate in terms of quality and reliability. The major differences between this and the Keyglove: motion-based control, wireless operation, internal feedback, sensor technology and quantity (and therefore full keyboard suitability), and target market. It’s also currently only available in a non-wireless, left-hand orientation, though wireless and right-handed versions are not a future impossibility. It costs $150 at the moment.
The KITTY input device from kittytech.com is another design. KITTY stands for “Keyboard Independent Touch Typing.” This is a unique kind of glove device which was originally designed for both hands and made to be easy for people who are already good at touch typing. It is not quite like any of the other above mentioned devices, but it is similar in some ways to the Keyglove. The KITTY tries to emulate the QWERTY muscle movements as closely as possible to work with people who already know how to touch type with a real keyboard. As most of the other gloves here, this does not have any mouse control.
|Essential Reality P5 Gaming Glove
The P5 Gaming Glove by Essential Reality is “an innovative, glove-like peripheral device, based upon proprietary bend sensor and remote tracking technologies, that provides users total intuitive interaction with 3D and virtual environments, such as games, websites and educational software.” It is no longer officially supported by the original company, but it has since been open-sourced (more info here). Amazon has some interesting reviews of the product as well as an easy way to purchase for about $60, if you’re interested.
This project is a 16-key wearable keyglove, which appears to be an early prototype that didn’t go very far. According to the article, it attempted to create all of the standard 101 keys of a full-size keyboard, but only succeeded in implementing 45 due to ergonomic constraints. They also seem to be using leather gloves, which are more restrictive than I prefer. The project references the two earlier keygloves (a bit more info available here).
This keyglove, adapted from the one on eyetap.org, is over at wirejunkie.com. It’s closer in comfort to what I envisioned, but other than being an ergonomically refined version of the previous glove, it is very similar. It does make more use of keyboard remapping though.
The Senseboard is a device that aims to emulate a physical QWERTY keyboard using special hardware strapped around the middle of the hand to detect finger movement and position. It doesn’t even require a surface (though using one may make it easier), since it measures movement directly inside the hand. It was first envisioned in 2000, though I’m sure the device as pictured here was designed some time later than that. I haven’t been able to determine whether or not it is commercially available at this time, but if the technology could be perfected to reliability, then it could be very useful in its own way. The approach is quite different from the Keyglove, however, since the sensors are totally different and both hands are required. The official website for the Senseboard is here— the link in the summary article is outdated and goes to an “under construction” page. According to senseboard.com, SenseBoard AB went bankrupt sometime in 2011 and all their assets belong to Asplund Data AB.
This glove, on eyetap.org as a “Key-Glove”, looks incredibly similar to the physical design I imagined, but the implementation is a little different. They don’t make use of the palm area at all, at least in the default design, and they use 21 different sensors (made ingeniously from snap buttons) to achieve 8 * 13 = 104 possible 1-to-1 sensor combinations. The processor board is ripped from a standard 101-key keyboard though, so it is impossible to make use of multi-sensor combinations, and very difficult to customize once it’s built. The physical design is great though.
The Thumbcode glove from Stanford has only buttons on the three segments of each of four fingers, and it achieves multiple combinations by detecting which fingers are touching together. It is a very interesting glove. I originally looked into using pushbuttons as pictured here, but as a rule, they require significantly more force (even if it each button is very sensitive) when compared to a basic “touch” contact sensor. Additionally, using buttons doesn’t allow you to definitively know which two points are making contact unless the user is extremely precise. With contact-based sensors, it is very simple to know which to points are making contact and act accordingly.
|Nintendo Power Glove
What list would be complete without the Power Glove? I have no idea how many people have mentioned this within moments of seeing the Keyglove prototype. Some of them even go so far as to say “I love the Keyglove. It’s so bad.” I like to think the Keyglove is orders of magnitude better than this, but it deserves mad props for being the earliest device to market by almost 10 years compared to the next one here. It has very limited flex sensing and single-axis motion detection, plus a whole lot of buttons that make it more tedious than intuitive. It was a courageous attempt at a consumer-grade input glove, a commercial failure, and a pretty well-known meme.