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Meta copied ‘core components’ of virtual reality glove from HaptX, company alleges

‘The core components of this prototype ... appear to be substantively identical to HaptX’s patented technology’, HaptX CEO Jake Rubin said

Adam Smith
Thursday 18 November 2021 16:54 GMT
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(Meta)

HaptX, a haptics company, has claimed that Meta has copied patented designs for a glove that would let you touch objects in virtual reality.

Meta, formerly Facebook, revealed the glove yesterday, and can apparently recreate the feelings of texture, pressure, and vibration – although Meta says it is still in the “early stages of research”.

The gloves are made with hundreds of actuators – tiny motors – that work synchronously, and the company has proposed replacing them with soft ones that change shape as the wearer moves in future.

“The core components of this prototype, including the silicone-based microfluidic tactile feedback laminate and pneumatic control architecture, appear to be substantively identical to HaptX’s patented technology. We welcome interest and competition in the field of microfluidic haptics; however, competition must be fair for the industry to thrive”, HaptX founder and CEO Jake Rubin said in a statement.

These microfluidic processors in Meta’s gloves are tiny chips on the glove that contols the air flow that moves the actuators, telling the valves when and how far to open.

“What makes our work different from the broader field of microfluidics in general is that we have this emphasis on making things very lightweight, wearable, and fast,” Meta’s Andrew Stanley said in the company’s blog post.

“For a haptic interaction, the actuator needs to pressurise against the fingertip very quickly as some event happens in virtual or augmented reality. Most microfluidics processes, like the ones used in chemical analysis, happen on the order of seconds whereas we’re looking at an order of milliseconds. We can get a faster response time with air.”

Mr Rubin has alleged that HaptX had “hosted many engineers, researchers, and executives from Meta to demonstrate our groundbreaking haptic technology” over a period of years, and that while he has not heard from Meta he hopes for a “fair and equitable arrangement that addresses our concerns and enables them to incorporate our innovative technology into their future consumer products.”

HaptX’s accusations suggest direct patent infringement which could lead to a lawsuit against the social media metaverse company, although it is unclear what HaptX would consider a “fair agreement”.

Meta did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent before time of publication.

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