Microsoft invents Smart Gloves with mixed materials to support both maximum flexibility and internal components
Microsoft's first patent touching on smart fabrics for future smart gloves surfaced back in November 2019. Then last week the US Patent & Trademark Office published a second patent application from Microsoft relating to a smart glove having flexible regions of varying stiffnesses for accommodating both wearability and input/output device performance.
Many wearable devices, such as head-mounted devices and wrist-mounted devices, include a rigid body that houses electronic components such as input and output devices. However, some wearable devices may be designed to position input and/or output devices at flexible locations of the devices.
As an example, a wearable device in the form of an electronically functional textile glove may include one or more haptic output devices to provide vibrational outputs at locations along fingers of the glove, the back of the hand, and/or palm, and/or may include motion-restricting mechanisms (e.g. electrostatic clutches, electrorheological devices, magnetorheological devices, mechanical motion restriction devices, etc.) to apply pulling, pushing, and/or locking forces to a user's fingers.
Yet attaching such devices to flexible portions of a wearable device may pose challenges. For example, mounting a haptic or other mechanical device to a flexible portion of a wearable device may result in output energy (e.g. vibrational energy, mechanical motion, etc.) of the device being attenuated by the flexible glove, thereby dampening an effect of the output device as perceived by a user.
Microsoft's invention relates to a wearable device having regions of varying stiffnesses for accommodating both the mounting of an input and/or output device and wearability.
When included, an input subsystem may comprise or interface with one or more user-input devices such as a keyboard, mouse, touch screen, or game controller.
Microsoft's patent FIGS. 1A and 1B show a top view and a side view of an example wearable device #100 in the form of a glove that has at least a first region #102 of flexible material having a lesser stiffness and a second region #104 of flexible material having a greater stiffness.
For more on this, read our full Patently Mobile report here.
For the record, Samsung (2014), Sony (2016) and Apple (01 & 02) have patents on record for future smart gloves relating to games and beyond. Apple is also hedging its bets with various engineering teams working on finger clips to work with future Head Mounted Device (01 & 02) instead of gloves.