Data Glove with Optical Sensors Has Potential in Sign Language and Human-Robot Applications

In a study published in Polymers, researchers proposed a tractable low-cost, structurally robust data glove with a self-calibration function and simple sensing mechanism based on a space-division multiplexed optical fiber sensor. Due to its high sensitivity and customizability, the data glove will have potential applications in telemedicine, sign language recognition, and human-robot interaction.

Study: Low-Cost Self-Calibration Data Glove Based on Space-Division Multiplexed Flexible Optical Fiber Sensor. Image Credit: Tutatamafilm/

What are Data Gloves?

A data glove is a wearable, interactive device resembling a hand glove that enables fine-motion and tactile sensing control in robotics. Flexible electronics-based wearable technology has grown and developed dramatically over the past 20 years, and the data glove is among them.

Data gloves popularized in virtual reality (VR) applications have become increasingly popular. The data glove's natural interface with humans improves system operations of robotic applications and is useful in many other areas.

Data gloves are increasingly employed in robot control and remote operation, entertainment and sports in virtual reality systems, surgical training for medical applications, and sign language detection.

Limitations of Current Data Gloves Technology

Wearable technologies such as data gloves must still overcome several obstacles before they can be widely promoted and incorporated into everyday life. For instance, the lack of tractable sensors with superior sensing performance, the need for heavy and costly external equipment, and the absence of real-time output can result in poor signal quality and an unfriendly user experience, limiting future applications.

Selecting the proper soft base material to fulfill the functionalities of stretchability, flexibility, and torsion ability is challenging for flexible sensor design.

Fiber-based materials have recently been favored for fabricating flexible sensors in wearable gadgets. Instead of block or film compounds, fiber-based materials can be developed in various forms and mounted on wearable textiles, providing superior flexibility and comfort.

However, producing fiber is frequently expensive, time-consuming, and environmentally harmful. Therefore, producing tractable low-cost sensors with rapid response, super-stability, and high sensitivity is critical for developing intelligent, user-friendly wearable devices.

Using Optical Fiber and Space-Division Multiplexed Sensor to Increase the Flexibility and Sensitivity of the Data Glove

Researchers adopted a stable, simple, controllable, and economical method to design flexible optical fibers with stretchable and adjustable properties.

Five flexible fibers were integrated with the camera and fixed to the glove using a quick and effective space-division multiplexed fiber-sensing technique. This reduced the amount of space and weight taken up by a signal demodulation portion and removed crosstalk signals between optical fiber sensors.

The flexible fiber sensor measures the total optical loss of the finger during transmission to quantify the optical fiber deformation. Therefore, it is essential to select the proper light source.

The primary structure was stable, and the fiber was not mixed with any additional metallic components. The sensor can be simply attached to a typical textile glove's surface.

The self-calibration feature enables the data glove to be tailored to the user's preferences, a critical requirement for wearable devices.

Significant Findings of the Study

The designed flexible silicone rubber fiber has excellent stability, repeatability and sensitivity under bending, torsional and tensile deformation. When the fiber is stretched 50 times in the range of 0-50% strain, the optical loss in the 20 to 50 °C temperature range is less than 10%.

The optical loss produced by the fiber with 100 cycles of bending is less than 4% at angles between 0° and 120°.

The detecting component based on a camera and algorithm can acquire and analyze information in real-time compactly and efficiently. Moreover, the sensor can be easily attached to the surface of a standard textile glove, allowing the size of the data glove to be modified based on the kind of textile glove.

The data glove may also self-adapt to varying hand sizes and bending tendencies when used with a self-calibration function that can increase data collecting accuracy. The data glove successfully identified and recorded every move throughout the test of gesture capture.

The manipulator is capable of executing the same action swiftly in response. The data glove can precisely and successfully track the movement of finger joints in real-time.

The adaptable and adjustable data glove uses streamlined manufacturing methods and widely available sensor components to capture gestures and track joint motions in real-time at an affordable cost. This would considerably expand data glove applications in telemedicine, VR, motion tracking, and human-robot interaction.

It is anticipated that as AI advances, data gloves will find increasingly useful applications.


Yu, H., Zheng, D., Liu, Y., Chen, S., Wang, X., & Peng, W. (2022). Low-Cost Self-Calibration Data Glove Based on Space-Division Multiplexed Flexible Optical Fiber Sensor. Polymers.  

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Owais Ali

Written by

Owais Ali

NEBOSH certified Mechanical Engineer with 3 years of experience as a technical writer and editor. Owais is interested in occupational health and safety, computer hardware, industrial and mobile robotics. During his academic career, Owais worked on several research projects regarding mobile robots, notably the Autonomous Fire Fighting Mobile Robot. The designed mobile robot could navigate, detect and extinguish fire autonomously. Arduino Uno was used as the microcontroller to control the flame sensors' input and output of the flame extinguisher. Apart from his professional life, Owais is an avid book reader and a huge computer technology enthusiast and likes to keep himself updated regarding developments in the computer industry.


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