Ready to be touched in VR?

It sounds like something from the film ‘Ready Player One’ but scientists at Northwestern University have developed a ‘patch’ that can simulate the sensation of human touch over long-distances.

In the example referenced in a Scientific American report, a mother can be found chatting with her young son via a video link as she pats an interface, which is reflected via a wearable patch as a loving pat on the back to her son.

We can think of some very difference ‘use cases’ for such a technology and especially as the materials used in the patch are described “lightweight, soft patch of fabric-like material that can flex and twist like a wet suit, maintaining direct contact with the wearer’s skin as their body moves”.

It goes on to describe the device as featuring “an array of actuators, each of which can be activated individually and tuned to different vibration frequencies to convey a stronger or weaker sensation.”

The creators envision this technology to be build into a full body suit that has in excess of 1,000 actuators with the researchers starting on smaller scale devices that can be worn on different parts of the body for more “mainstream” applications.

Project lead John A. Rogers is quoted as saying: “If you take a look at what exists today in VR and AR, it consists primarily of auditory and visual channels as the main basis for the sensory experience, but we think that the skin itself—the sense of touch—could qualitatively add to your experience that you could achieve with VR, beyond anything that’s possible with audio and video.”

Mr Rogers, when you’re ready to send us a few ‘sample patches’ we’d be happy to test them out for you… 😉