Hi-tech skin capable of transmitting the tactile sensation wirelessly

Home Human enhancement Gaming Hi-tech skin capable of transmitting the tactile sensation wirelessly

Hi-tech, flexible, battery-free skin capable of transmitting the tactile sensation wirelessly could arrive soon in order to make virtual and augmented reality experiences more immersive. Moreover it could allow to enhance prosthesis to perceive tactile sensations.

Developed by John Rogers of Northwestern University, and described on the scientific magazine Nature, this synthetic skin was created primarily with the aim of bridging a gap in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality. In fact in this context the tactile sensations are generally under-represented or in many cases not represented at all, and compensated by the visual and sound ones of helmets, visors, speakers and headphones used to reproduce a virtual environment. Starting from this observation, the scientists thought of producing a hi-tech skin that would allow at the same time to feel a stimulus but to be flexible, safe and comfortable to wear.

, Exploded-view schematic illustration of a device with 32 independently controlled haptic actuators. b, Schematic illustration of the NFC electronics and circuit; the main circuit components are labelled 1–6. c, d, Optical images of an NFC coil before (c) and after (d) integrating the electronic components. e, Exploded-view schematic diagram of a haptic actuator. f, g, Schematic diagram of an actuator viewed from above (f) and below (g). h, i, Optical images of an actuator viewed from above (h) and below (i). j–o, Optical images (top row) and FEA results (bottom row) of an epidermal VR device under bending (j, m), folding (k, n) and twisting (l, o). The colour in m–o represents the equivalent strain, and the insets show the areas with relatively high strain levels. Credits: Nature.com


Synthetic skin works thanks to an interface, developed by scientists, capable of transmitting tactile sensations in the form of vibrations, wirelessly and without the need for cables or batteries. It uses a series of actuators, small devices capable of converting electrical signals into vibrations, encapsulated in a flexible material, which adapts to the natural profile of the skin and which is easily wearable, like a plaster. Wireless transmission works thanks to a system of antennas (tested for safety), which works within a meter (distance between the power source and the platform) and which could allow, as scientists have shown, to feel the touch of a loved one at a distance, or to perceive the shape of the objects grabbed by a prosthesis.

A, Social media application: a, a girl touches a screen that displays a video feed of her grandmother, who is wearing an epidermal VR device on her hand and her arm (inset photograph); b, a dynamic illustration of the pattern of ‘virtual touch process’ and ‘sense of virtual touch’. B, Prosthetics application: a, a man with a lower-arm amputation wears a prosthetic arm with a robotic hand and an epidermal VR device on his upper arm; b, c, the device produces a haptic pattern of sensation (‘think and feel’) that reproduces the shape characteristics of objects (‘feedback’) held in the robotic hand (‘sensing’). C, Gaming application: a, a man wears several epidermal VR devices on different parts of his body; b–f, devices activate when a strike occurs on the corresponding body part of the game character, namely, the hand (b), elbow (c), arm (d), chest (e) and back (f). Credits: Nature.com

That’s right, feeling on the skin, in the form of vibrations, the blow that you receive while grappling with a fighting video game or being able to caress a friend at a distance will be possible thanks to this synthetic skin that increasingly fill the gap between virtual and reality.

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Cristiana Rizzutohttps://biomedicalcue.it
Biomedical Engineering student at Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna. Close-up Engineering author ( Medicine and Biomedical Engineering section). Curious and enthusiastic mind, constantly searching for poetry in science, sinuosity in robotics, art in technology. I like imagining mathematics as a harmonious and secret language of nature and biomedical engineering as a "human" engineering: a science of life.


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