Putting technology firmly at your fingertips, these high-tech designs demonstrate the fact that there’s much more to gloves than merely keeping your hands warm. This new breed of tech gloves are capable of playing games, making music, and delivering electric shocks to aggressors – so they could give the likes of Tony Stark a run for their money. And while some of the 12 items on our list are still at the prototype stage, we don’t think it will be long until they’re made widely available.
12. Scute Design Lumin8a
When it comes to cycling, safety and visibility go hand in hand: if you’re easy to see, you’re less likely to be hit by vehicles on the road. That’s the thinking behind the Lumin8a gloves by U.K.-based Scute Design. The standout gloves showcase integrated chevron-shaped LEDs and are designed specifically to enhance the visibility of cyclists’ hand signals when they indicate. The flashing lights, visible from up to 492 feet (150 meters) away, are activated by the touch of a button on the index finger. The gloves also feature a handy USB hookup for recharging. Though not available to buy just yet, the Lumin8a gloves are expected to hit stores soon priced at around $64 (£39.99).
11. hi-Call Bluetooth
The universally accepted hand signal for “call me” has just taken a literal turn. Now anyone wearing hi-Call Bluetooth gloves can place their left thumb to their ear and their left pinkie to their mouth and make a real-life call owing to the glove’s built-in microphone and speaker. Bluetooth connectivity means your smartphone can stay safely in the other hand, operational thanks to capacitive sensing. The gloves are available from manufacturer hi-Fun’s official website for approximately $68 (€49.99). What better way to attract confused stares from those around you, especially during the summer months?
10. General Motors and NASA K-Glove
When NASA and General Motors (G.M.) develop a glove together, it’s safe to assume that it’s going to do more than just keep your hands warm. And that’s certainly the case with the K-Glove, also known as the “Robo-Glove.” The device was designed to help astronauts and factory workers grip tools. Pressure sensors in the fingertips identify when an implement has been gripped, and actuators and “synthetic tendons” work to hold the tool in place, greatly reducing the amount of force the wearer needs to exert. The glove could help slash the possibility of factory workers suffering repetitive stress injuries and may enable greater hand dexterity for astronauts using tools in space. A third prototype of the glove is currently in the works, and G.M. manufacturing engineer Dana Komin says the company’s aim is “to bring this technology to the shop floor in the near future.”
9. The Gloves Project
Waving your hands in the air like you just don’t care has generally been the job of the audience rather than the performer. English musician Imogen Heap is looking to redress that balance – at her concerts at least – with “The Gloves Project.” The gloves are designed to provide an intuitive gesture-based means of controlling many aspects of sound, music and effects on stage. They have been in development since Heap visited MIT’s Media Lab in 2009 and realized the potential. For a performer like Heap, who utilizes technology heavily, the gloves offer a way to connect even more directly and transparently with the audience – “like painting music rather than typing it into a spreadsheet,” she explained. If you’re interested in getting in on the action, you can apply to host prototype versions of the gloves for a two-month “residency” period.
Originally motivated by a mountain lion attack, and described by its manufacturers as something Robocop or Iron Man might wear, the Armstar protective glove looks a bit like an invention a 12-year-old could have willed into existence. So it may not surprise you to learn that action man Kevin Costner is a partner and joint owner of the firm. However, the Armstar is in fact a serious piece of technology that has been designed for police and security work. It can transmit loud electrical noise, while electrodes can be used to deliver an electric charge to an assailant for “pain compliance applications” if necessary. The glove also features video recording capability and lights to prevent conflict situations from getting out of hand. Despite the glove’s Hollywood styling, Armstar maintains that “this product was not invented for the movies, but rather to save lives.”
7. Grathio Labs Tacit Project
The Tacit Project is the brainchild of San Francisco-based inventor Steve Hoefer. Dubbed “sonar for the blind,” the hand-mounted device gathers information about the user’s surroundings and applies pressure on the wrist accordingly, allowing visually impaired users to “feel” their way around more easily. The glove picks up objects that are 1 inch to 10 feet away and provides feedback in less than a second. Though it’s still just a prototype, Hoefer estimates that the devices costs about $65 to make, and he has made all the necessary information for building it – plus suggestions for improvements to the design – freely available on his website.
Developed by Kevin Cannon and Ashwin Rajan, Frontline gloves are designed to allow firefighters to communicate with one another when visibility is bad. The gloves’ gesture-recognition technology enables firefighters to use hand signals to send their colleagues simple instructions, which are then displayed in super-bright LEDs on the glove. The gloves offer advantages over traditional methods of communication such as radio, which is susceptible to interference, and regular vocal communication, which uses up invaluable oxygen in dangerous situations. Though currently just a prototype, the gloves do still feature clever real-world technology – such as sonar for measuring distance and bend-sensors in the fingers to interpret hand signals.
5. Peregrine Wearable Interface
Video gaming gloves have come a long way since the Power Glove was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989. The Power Glove changed the gaming landscape – mainly for the worse – with its cumbersome design and imprecise controls. The Peregrine Wearable Interface, however, is an entirely different beast. With its 18 Touch Points and a trio of Activator Pads, the glove enables you to trigger more than 30 user-customizable gesture commands with your fingers, eliminating the need to stare down at your keyboard, and therefore adding to the uninterrupted fluidity of your gaming experience. And if you’re prone to punching the air in celebration, fear not, as the $149.95 glove features a detachable magnetic attachment cable to prevent victory-induced damage – to the glove, at least.
4. Design Research Lab Mobile Lorm Glove
The Mobile Lorm glove by Design Research Lab is another high tech glove designed to improve the experience of the visually (and aurally) impaired. It’s a mobile device that enables deaf-blind people to send and receive text-based communications. The glove features an array of material pressure points that convert the tactile signing alphabet, Lorm, into text messages. These can then be transferred to the user’s phone via Bluetooth and sent onwards like a regular text message. Likewise, incoming text messages are translated into vibration patterns on the glove that can be interpreted by the user. According to Design Research Lab, the next step in the glove’s development will be “to prepare the implementation of direct speech input and output.” Watch this space.
3. Chaval Response-XRT
Despite looking like something you might wear to train a falcon, these gloves from American firm Chaval are in fact aimed at the winter sports market. The Response-XRT gloves feature Chaval’s alphaHEAT technology, which utilizes a nanotech polymer-heating layer to keep wearers’ hands warm. The alphaHEAT element in the glove determines when and where heat is required and supplies it accordingly. And if that isn’t enough, the gloves also dry themselves through yet more patented technology. However, perhaps the most impressive feature is the gloves’ charge-life, which lasts for up to seven hours – plenty of time for hitting the slopes. It’s sometimes said that you can’t put a price on happiness, but for cold hands, at least, now you can – and that price is $389.97.
2. Bryan Cera Glove One
The Glove One by American artist and designer Bryan Cera straddles the boundaries of art and technology. Ostensibly a wearable cell phone, the glove is less about sheer innovation and more about investigating the implications of integrated personal technology. Cera himself describes the glove as “a fun project to try to literalize technology as phantom limb.” He has provided instructional files for the design as well as a series of YouTube tutorial videos, should you wish to make one yourself. As for the glove’s aesthetics, Cera comments that he opted to eschew a fabric-oriented design in favor of a more mechanical look, because “robots FTW!”
1. Grathio Labs Rock Paper Scissors Glove
In much the same vein as arm wrestling or tennis, rock-paper-scissors is a game best not played alone. Until now, that is, as the “Rock Paper Scissors” glove enables you to do just that. (People with no friends, rejoice!) This is another design from American inventor Steve Hoefer and is inspired by his love of computer technology that works with humans “on our own terms.” The glove is designed to operate totally intuitively: the wearer plays the game as they would do normally, and the glove flashes up its own move each time on the attached LED display. More impressive is the fact that the glove learns your playing habits (thanks to its onboard Arduino Mini Pro microcontroller) and adapts its strategy accordingly; Hoefer is currently trailing the glove in best-of-five matches. Better get practicing.