4:15pm

Mon April 11, 2011
All Tech Considered

Get A Grip: High-Tech Gloves For Golfers, Skiers

People take their smartphones and tablets everywhere these days. But when they take them outside, sometimes the elements get in the way. Have you ever had your screen freeze up in the cold or feel your fingers get numb from removing your gloves to make a call? It's not uncommon — especially during ski season in Colorado.

So, Jean Spencer, and her mother, Jennifer, invented a glove that aims to keep your fingers warm while you update your Facebook status or check email on the slopes or in a chilly subway terminal.

At Loveland Ski Area near Georgetown, Colo., Jennifer Spencer models the Aglove, which is black with a sparkle in it.

"And that sparkle is the actual silver in the glove, and it's the silver that makes the glove conductive," she says.

To illustrate how the glove works, the Spencers bring an iPad to the mountain and play a virtual piano while wearing the gloves.

They also hand a pair of Agloves to Matthew Coleman, a snowboarder they spot who is clumsily taking off his gloves and trying to make a call.

"Wow, I can click really small spaces," he says. "I have really good dexterity and accuracy."

A number of companies are manufacturing high-tech gloves. But they're not just for operating personal gadgets. There are also sophisticated gloves for farming, gardening, baseball and golf.

A Glove To Monitor Your Golf Swing

At the Park Hill Golf Club in Denver, my friend Joe Frey tests out the SensoGlove — a glove with a computer chip.

The chip rests on the top of Frey's hand. It has a screen and reacts to sensors in the fingers of the glove. When Frey takes a swing, the screen tells him whether any of his fingers are gripping the club too hard.

After Frey takes a swing, the screen shows a hand with a pinkie lit up and blinking. That means he gripped the club too hard with that finger, suggesting his shoulders aren't relaxed enough.

I'm no golfer. But Frey, who's a seasoned golfer, is skeptical about the glove's feedback.

"There's a hundred pieces of the swing," he says. "Your grip is one of those hundred."

Frey thinks the SensoGlove may be a better fit for people who grip their club too hard.

But even the most high-tech glove won't help a novice like me.

Copyright 2011 KUNC-FM. To see more, visit http://www.kunc.org.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

If you're ever found yourself fruitlessly trying to tap away at a smartphone's touchscreen with your gloves on - you know the problem; it doesn't work. Well, problem solved. Kirk Siegler, of member station KUNC, reports on gloves that are just as smart as your phone.

KIRK SIEGLER: So consider this next time you go to update your status to brag about how good the spring skiing is in Colorado. Well, Jean Spencer says skiers' phones are getting smarter, so why aren't their gloves?

Ms. JEAN SPENCER: They want to be on Facebook; they want to stay on their email all day long. So you just have to make the clothing that allows them to do that.

SIEGLER: So Jean and her mom, Jennifer Spencer, invented a glove that makes it easier to operate touch screens on the ski slopes or in chilly subway terminals. Jennifer is introducing me to the Aglove here, at the Loveland Ski Area.

Ms. JENNIFER SPENCER: If you're looking at this, they're kind of black with a sparkle in them, and that sparkle is the actual silver in the glove, and it's the silver that makes the glove conductive.

SIEGLER: To illustrate, they've brought an iPad to the mountain, as you do.

Ms. JEAN SPENCER: Here I am, playing the piano.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGLER: Even in this wired world, an iPad on the slopes attracts attention.

Mr. MATTHEW COLEMAN: Right now, I'm checking my work email. I don't have any.

SIEGLER: The Spencers have handed a pair of Agloves to curious snowboarder Matthew Coleman, who they spotted clumsily taking off his gloves and trying to make a call.

Mr. COLEMAN: Wow, I can click really small spaces; I have really good dexterity and accuracy.

SIEGLER: It turns out the Aglove is just one example of a growing trend toward manufacturing high-tech gloves - not just for operating personal technology devices, either. There are now sophisticated gloves for farming, gardening, baseball...

(Soundbite of golf swing)

SIEGLER: ...golf. Six thousand feet down the mountain, and I'm at the Park Hill Golf Club in Denver. Now, I'm no golfer, but my friend Joe Frey is.

OK. So I'm about to hand you a SensoGlove. It looks, essentially, like the glove you just put in your back pocket.

Mr. JOE FREY: It does, yup - except for the computer chip on top of your hand, yes.

SIEGLER: That computer chip has a screen, and reacts to sensors in the fingers of the glove. And when Joe takes a swing, the screen tells him whether any of his fingers are gripping the club too hard.

(Soundbite of golf swing)

(Soundbite of beeping)

SIEGLER: The screen shows a hand with a pinky lit up and blinking - meaning Joe gripped the club too hard with that finger, suggesting his shoulders aren't relaxed enough. But as a seasoned golfer, he's skeptical.

Mr. FREY: There's a hundred pieces of the swing. Your grip is one of those hundred.

SIEGLER: Joe thinks the SensoGlove may be more catered to people like Cary Zimmerman, who's been eavesdropping on our conversation behind us, on the driving range.

Mr. CARY ZIMMERMAN: And I grip really hard, so I'm probably going to send this thing off the charts.

(Soundbite of beeping)

SIEGLER: I'm getting a lot of beeps.

Mr. ZIMMERMAN: Something like this is the nuance that could help you, you know, once you reach a certain level, get to the next level.

SIEGLER: Well, I probably have more nuances to worry about in my golf game than these two guys combined.

(Soundbite of golf swing)

SIEGLER: Ow.

Mr. FREY: Cold dead shake right.

SIEGLER: All but one finger on the computer chip lights up like it's some sort of golf emergency. Well, even the most high-tech gloves won't help everyone.

For NPR News, I'm Kirk Siegler.

(Soundbite of music)

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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