A small, soft and ultrathin wireless electrotactile system

A small, soft and ultrathin wireless electrotactile system

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Schematic illustration of the miniaturized wireless electrotouch system. a, Exploded view of the structures and components of the steering unit. b, Exploded view of manual patch structure of hydrogel-based electrodes. Credit: Yao et al, Intelligence of natural machines (2022)

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets are increasingly advanced, enabling increasingly engaging and immersive digital experiences. To make VR and AR experiences even more realistic, engineers tried to create better systems that produce tactile and haptic feedback to match virtual content.

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC) and other institutes in China recently created WeTac, a miniaturized wireless electrotouch system , soft and ultrathin that produces tactile sensations on the user’s screen. skin. This system, introduced in Intelligence of natural machinesworks by delivering electrical current through the user’s hand.

“As tactile sensitivity between different individuals and different parts of a person’s hand varies greatly, a universal method to faithfully feedback tactile information into hands based on sensitivity characteristics is urgently needed,” wrote Kuanming Yao and his colleagues in their article. . “Additionally, existing hand-worn haptic interfaces are typically bulky, rigid, and attached by cables, which is a barrier to providing accurate and natural haptic feedback.”

WeTac consists of a series of electrodes placed on the user’s palm and miniaturized soft electronic components that act as the device’s control panel. When worn by users, the device can produce detailed and programmable spatio-temporal haptic feedback patterns, with 32 pixels of electro-touch simulation on the side of the palm and a high spatial resolution of 0.279 pixels per cm2 in the densest region.

“WeTac delivers current through the hand to induce tactile sensations as a haptic interface embedded in the skin,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “With a relatively high pixel density across the entire hand area, the WeTac can provide tactile stimulation and measure users’ sensation thresholds flexibly.”

The device created by Yao and his colleagues has notable advantages over other electrotactile devices developed in the past. More specifically, it covers a larger area of ​​a user’s hand (i.e. the whole hand), rather than focusing on one or more fingers.

Additionally, because its components are ultra-soft, WeTac can easily map threshold currents for individual users, identifying the optimal settings to produce haptic feedback in specific parts of the hand. This could lead to full-hand, realistic and personalized touch experiences that can be clearly felt by users, without causing them pain.

“By mapping the thresholds of different electrical parameters, personalized threshold data can be acquired to reproduce virtual tactile sensations on the hand with optimized stimulation intensity and avoid causing pain,” the researchers explain in their paper. “With precise control over the level of sensation, temporal and spatial perception, it helps provide personalized feedback when users interact with virtual objects.”

In initial tests, the wireless electrotactile device created by the researchers showed very promising results, producing vivid and adjustable haptic feedback on users’ hands. In the future, it could be integrated with VR and AR systems, to create more vivid and engaging virtual experiences or to improve human-computer interactions.

More information:
Kuanming Yao et al, Encoding tactile information in hand via a skin-embedded wireless haptic interface, Intelligence of natural machines (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s42256-022-00543-y

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Quote: WeTac: A small, soft and ultrathin wireless electrotactile system (November 4, 2022) retrieved November 4, 2022 from https://techxplore.com/news/2022-11-wetac-small-soft-ultrathin-wireless.html

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