Thursday, May 23, 2024

Wireless System Provides Users With Improved Touch Experience

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Researchers have developed a miniaturized wireless electrotactile system called ‘WeTac’ that delivers an electrical current through a user’s hand which improves Human-Machine Interactions 

Credit: Yao et al, Nature Machine Intelligence (2022)

Augmented reality and virtual reality technologies try to bridge the gap between the virtual and physical worlds. AR and VR devices are used to provide users with personalized and well-designed experiences, as existing haptic interfaces worn on the hand are very bulky, and rigid and consist of cables/wires that restrict them from providing accurate and natural haptic feedback. To overcome this hurdle and make it more realistic, researchers from the University of Hong Kong, the City University of Hong Kong, the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC), and other institutes in China have invented ‘WeTac’. This small, soft, and ultrathin wireless electrotactile system produces tactile sensations on a user’s skin.

“WeTac delivers current through the hand to induce tactile sensations as the skin-integrated haptic interface,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “With a relatively high pixel density over the whole hand area, the WeTac can provide tactile stimulation and measure the sensation thresholds of users in a flexible way.”

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WeTac consists of a series of electrodes placed over a user’s palm and miniaturized soft electronic components acting as the device’s control panel. When worn by users, the device can produce detailed and programmable Spatio-temporal haptic feedback patterns, with 32 electrotactile simulation pixels on the side of the palm and a high spatial resolution of 0.279 pixels per cm2 in the densest region.  The advantage of this device is it covers a wider surface of a user’s hand (i.e., the whole hand), rather than focusing on one or more fingertips compared to electrotactile devices developed in the past. Further, as its component are ultrasoft, WeTac can easily map threshold currents for individual users, identifying optimal parameters for producing haptic feedback in specific parts of the hand. This could lead to full-hand, realistic, and personalized tactile experiences that users can feel without causing them pain.

“By mapping the thresholds for different electrical parameters, personalized threshold data can be acquired to reproduce virtual touching sensations on the hand with optimized stimulation intensity and avoid causing pain,” the researchers explained in their paper. “With an accurate control of sensation level, temporal and spatial perception, it allows providing personalized feedback when users interact with virtual objects.”

The wireless electrotactile device invented by researchers proved to achieve promising results as with a series of experiments performed, it produced vivid and adjustable haptic feedback on users’ hands.

Click here for the Published Research Paper


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