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IPFS News Link • Science, Medicine and Technology

"Epidermal VR" brings a new sense of touch to virtual reality

• by Ben Coxworth

Developed by scientists at Illinois' Northwestern University and the City University of Hong Kong, the experimental technology incorporates a thin, soft, flexible and slightly-tacky elastomer patch that temporarily adheres to the user's skin.

Embedded within that patch is an array of wirelessly-powered, wirelessly-controlled, disc-shaped electronic actuators. A 15 by 15-cm (5.9-inch) prototype presently contains 32 of these devices, although it is hoped that as the actuators get smaller, it will be possible to pack more of them into a given area.

The idea is that when an epidermal VR patch is activated – such as by a VR game – some of the actuators will vibrate against the wearer's skin, stimulating that person's sense of touch in a specific area. Each of the actuators is designed to resonate most strongly at 200 cycles per second, the frequency at which human skin exhibits maximum sensitivity.