London (MOL): It may look like a hi-tech instrument of torture, but this strange gadget is an exoskeleton for the hand. The device, called Dexmo, can be used to control robots as well as with virtual reality headsets to make video games more immersive. The exoskeleton uses haptic feedback to allow wearers to feel the size of a visual object they are touching on screen.  Dexmo has been created by a Chinese company called Dexta Robotics, which is raising money on Kickstarter in order to put its device into production. Engineers at the company claim they have created: ‘an affordable mechanical exoskeleton system with force feedback for you to touch the digital world and captures your hand motion.’ The classic version is simply an input device, so it can be used to control the mechanical hands of robots for example. It captures 11 degrees of hand motion including the rotation of the thumb and the bending of four fingers. The group of engineers and computer scientists came up with Dexmo after noticing a lack of affordable hand motion capturing devises in the field of robotics and virtual reality. After 17 versions, they managed to create an immersive exoskeleton with force feedback – the F2. The more advanced version provides wearers with digital force feedback for their index finger and thumb, which allows them to ‘feel’ a digital object.

The engineers say the device can be used to control a robotic hand ‘providing you with a better sense of presence by simulating a force feedback when an object is hit’. ‘With Dexmo F2, we can take virtual reality to its next level, it adds a sense of touch to gaming and now you can now feel the size of a digital object,’ they explained, adding that the device doesn’t allow a wearer to feel softness yet.  They have also used the device to control lighting, as a tool to be used in music production and art computer programmes and to play a virtual piano. The Dexmo classic is available to pre-order from Kickstarter for $65 (£40) plus shipping, with the Dexmo F2 on sale for $179 (£111). Both versions of the device are expected to be shipped in May 2015 - providing the firm raises enough money– and there are metal industrial versions of the exoskeletons available too, for $5,000 (£3,107).