UNSW Engineering researchers have developed a new soft skin stretch device (SSD) which can be integrated into fabric, such as the finger glove pictured which is contrasted with a stylised robotic hand. Image: UNSW Engineering
UNSW engineers have invented a soft wearable device which simulates the sense of touch and has wide potential for medical, industrial and entertainment applications.
What if you could touch a loved one during a video call – particularly in today’s social distancing era of COVID-19 – or pick up and handle a virtual tool in a video game?
Pending user tests and funding to commercialise the new technology, these ideas could become reality in a couple of years after UNSW Sydney engineers developed a new haptic device which recreates the sense of touch.
Haptic technology mimics the experience of touch by stimulating localised areas of the skin in ways that are similar to what is felt in the real world, through force, vibration or motion.
His research team featured lead author and PhD candidate Mai Thanh Thai, Phuoc Thien Phan, Trung Thien Hoang and collaborator Scientia Professor Nigel Lovell, Head of the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering.
Dr Do said the sense of touch was something many people took for granted to perform everyday tasks.
“When we do things with our hands, such as holding a mobile phone or typing on a keyboard, all of these actions are impossible without haptics,” he said.
“The human hand has a high density of tactile receptors and is both an interesting and challenging area to encode information through haptic stimulation, because we use our hands to perceive most objects every day.
“There are many situations where the sense of touch would be useful but is impossible: for example, in a telehealth consultation a doctor is unable to physically examine a patient. So, we aimed to solve this problem.”
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