HaptX points out apparent substantial similarities between Meta’s prototype microfluidic haptic feedback glove and its own
➨ HaptX believes the core components of the prototype microfluidic haptic feedback glove demonstrated by Meta yesterday ‘appear to be substantively identical’ to its own patented technology
➨ Founder and chief executive officer Jake Rubin revealed HaptX’s concerns in a statement published yesterday, in response to Meta’s demonstration of its prototype microfluidic haptic feedback glove
➨ Rubin says in his statement: ‘While we have not yet heard from Meta, we look forward to working with them to reach a fair and equitable arrangement that addresses our concerns and enables them to incorporate our innovative technology into their future consumer products’
HaptX believes the core components of the prototype microfluidic haptic feedback glove demonstrated by Meta yesterday “appear to be substantively identical” to its own patented technology.
Founder and chief executive officer Jake Rubin revealed US-based HaptX’s concerns in a statement published yesterday, in response to Meta’s demonstration of its prototype microfluidic haptic feedback glove.
Meta published the blog post as the final installment of a three-part series on the work being undertaken at Reality Labs, the division carries out much of its virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) research and development.
Previous blog posts covered Meta’s plans for AR glasses and a wrist-based input device. The latest demonstration revealed the prototype “comfortable and customisable gloves that can reproduce a range of sensations in virtual worlds, including texture, pressure and vibration”.
Crucial to these gloves is, according to Meta, “the world’s first high-speed microfluidic processor—a tiny microfluidic chip on the glove that controls the air flow that moves the actuators, by telling the valves when and how far to open and close”.
Reality Labs research scientist Andrew Stanley explains in the blog post: “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.”
“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.”
“With our fluidic logic circuits, we’re able to eliminate heavy electromechanical components in the system by reducing the number of electromechanical valves that we need to control a large number of actuators.”
Watch a video of Meta’s actuators in action below.
Responding in his statement, Rubin says: “Today, Meta announced their own prototype microfluidic haptic feedback glove. 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.”
Rubin points out that HaptX’s technology “has been widely covered in the popular and technology press”, the company has “worked tirelessly to develop and promote the unique benefits of microfluidics as an approach to high-fidelity haptic feedback”, and it has “secured an industry-leading patent portfolio to protect our technology and products”.
The company has also “hosted many engineers, researchers, and executives from Meta to demonstrate our groundbreaking haptic technology”, in the belief that “cooperation is paramount to the development of the industry as a whole”.
Based on these intellectual property rights, HaptX argues that Meta may have a legal case to answer. Rubin says in his statement: “While we have not yet heard from Meta, we look forward to working with them to reach a fair and equitable arrangement that addresses our concerns and enables them to incorporate our innovative technology into their future consumer products.”
Public patent infringement disputes of this kind tend to be the opening gambit in licensing negotiations and some form of settlement, with highly expensive and sometimes unpredictable litigation seen as a last resort. See the smartphone wars of the previous decade for the messiest examples.
For HaptX, the dispute comes at a time when the haptic technology provider is thriving.
After landing $12 million in series A-1 financing earlier this year, the company announced an exclusive, multi-year partnership with Haption that will see it discontinue the production of its own haptic gloves and exclusively market HaptX Gloves to its customers, as well as accelerate the commercial introduction of full-body haptic devices.
Meta did not respond to a request for comment before publication.
Images: HaptX and Meta