Do you think it’s impossible to touch someone on the other side of the world? Think again.
Scientists have made a remarkable breakthrough in “expanding the boundaries of virtual reality” by developing artificial skin that can sense touch and allow you to feel the embrace of a special someone thousands of miles away or high-five a fellow player in an online game.
This artificial skin is made from thin, soft, and flexible material with 32 tiny vibrating actuators embedded into the six-inch-square patch of “skin.” It is designed to follow the natural curves of your body, so you can comfortably put it on. The amplitude and frequency of each individual actuator can be adjusted to send out a specific sense of touch to corresponding parts on the skin.
Prof. Yonggang Huang who co-led the research is already putting it to good use by helping US Army veteran Garrett Anderson feel sensations in his right-hand prosthetic fingertips after the patch was placed on his upper arm.
Garrett isn’t the only one who has seen the potential and benefits of this technology. A girl was able to touch her grandmother through video chat, while a third test involved a player in a combat-based video game who was able to experience the physical action of their game character.
This new artificial skin is a new peak in technology as it combines stretchable electronics with wireless power transfer. It represents a unique and superior collection of miniaturized actuators and components put together in a skin-interfaced wearable design with advanced architecture and virtually no encumbrances to the wearer.
What about the future of such “epidermal VR systems?” Prof. Rogers who has also worked on the project, says that this is just a starting point with great potential to naturally scale it to full-body systems and thousands of programmable actuators.