Published on December 2nd, 2019 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Synthetic ‘Skin’ Is Bringing a Sense of Touch to Virtual Reality
One of the major reasons virtual reality falls short is that it cannot involve all of the senses such as touch and smell. That could be changing as Edd Gent reports at Singularity Hub on the development of synthetic “skin” at Northwestern University for VR experiences thus simulating the sense of touch. Being able to feel pressure on the skin, texture on objects, perhaps even temperature change will make VR that much more powerful. These challenges are a reminder as to how incredible the human body is and how difficult it is to recreate its capabilities.
Image Credit: ABO Photography/Shutterstock.com
Virtual reality’s ability to create artificial worlds has come a long way in recent years. Now new technology could make those worlds even more realistic by simulating one of the most crucial ways in which we experience things: touch.
While they’re still struggling to gain commercial traction, the latest VR headsets are able to transport people to impressive virtual worlds. But the technology relies primarily on our senses of sight and hearing to create these illusions, which means they still lack realism.
A new lightweight, flexible, and wirelessly-powered synthetic skin could soon change that. Developed at Northwestern University, the 15-centimeter-square patch can be stuck onto any part of the body and uses actuators that vibrate against the skin to simulate tactile sensations.
“Virtual reality is a very important emerging area of technology,” John Rogers, who co-led the research, said in a press release. “Currently, we’re just using our eyes and our ears as the basis for those experiences. The community has been comparatively slow to exploit the body’s largest organ: the skin. Our sense of touch provides the most profound emotional connection between people.”